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THE present volume is intended to be the first of 
a series of studies of the urban community and 
of city Hfe. The old familiar problems of our com- 
munal and social life — poverty, crime, and vice — 
assume new and strange forms under the conditions 
of modern urban existence. Inherited custom, tradi- 
tion, all our ancient social and political heritages — 
human nature itself — have changed and are changing 
under the influence of the modern urban environ- 

The man whose restless disposition made him a 
pioneer on the frontier tends to become a "homeless 
man*' — a hobo and a vagrant — in the modern city. 
From the point of view of their biological predisposi- 
tions, the pioneer and the hobo are perhaps the 
same temperamental type; from the point of view of 
their socially acquired traits, they are something 
quite different. 

The city, more than any other product of man's 
genius and labors, represents the efl^ort of mankind to 
remake the world in accordance with its wishes, but 
the city, once made, compels man to conform to the 
structure and the purposes he himself has imposed 
upon it. If it is true that man made the city, 
it is quite as true that the city is now making 
man. That is certainly a part of what we mean 
when we speak of the "urban*' as contrasted with 
the "rural" mind. In any case, it is true that within 
the circle of these two tendencies, man's disposition, 




on the one hand, to create a world in which he can 
live, and, on the other, to adapt himself to the world 
which he himself has created, all, or most all of the 
problems and the processes are included with which 
the student of society is positively concerned. These 
processes go on, and these problems arise everywhere 
that men, coming together in order to live, find them- 
selves compelled to carry on a common and com- 
munal life. In cities, however, and particularly in 
great cities, where social life is more intense than 
elsewhere, the processes produce new and strange 
effects, and the problems are more poignant and 

A changing population of from 30,000 to 75,000 
homeless men in Chicago, living together within the 
area of thirty or forty city blocks, has created a 
milieu in which new and unusual personal types 
flourish and new and unsuspected problems have 

If the city were to be identified, as it sometimes 
has been, with its mere physical structure, its build- 
ings, streets, street railways, telephones, and other 
communal efficiencies; if the city were, in fact, a 
mere complex of mechanical and administrative 
devices for realizing certain clearly defined pur- 
poses, the problem of the city would be one of 
engineering and of administration merely. But this 
takes no account of human nature; it takes no 
account of what we have come to refer to in industry 
as the "problem of personnel.'' At least it seems 
to assume that the individual men and women for 
whom these organized agencies — economic, social, 
and political — exist, and by whom they are con- 
ducted, remain, in all their varied associations and 



relations, practically the same. Recent observa- 
tion, on the other hand, has led to the conclusion 
that human nature, as we ordinarily understand it, 
while it is based on certain fundamental but not 
clearly definable human traits and predispositions, 
is very largely a product of the environment, and 
particularly the human environment in which the 
individual happens to find himself. That means 
that every community, through the very character of 
the environment which it imposes upon the individ- 
uals that compose it, tends to determine the personal 
traits as it does determine the language, the vocation, 
social values, and, eventually, the personal opinions, 
of the individuals who compose it. 

It is the purpose of this and the succeeding studies 
in this series to describe the changes that are taking 
place in the life of the city and its peoples, and to 
investigate the city's problems in the light of these 
changes, and conditions of life generally of urban 
people. For this reason, this study of the "homeless 
man" has sought to see him, first of all, in his own 
habitat; in the social milieu which he has created 
for himself within the limits of the larger com- 
munity by which he is surrounded, but from which 
he is, in large part, an outcast. 

It is interesting to notice that within the area of 
his own social environment, the hobo has created, or 
at least there has grown up in response to his needs, a 
distinct and relatively independent local community, 
with its own economic, social, and social-political 

It is assumed that the study here made of the 
"Hobohemia" of Chicago, as well as the studies that 
are being planned for other areas and aspects of 



the city and its life, will at least be comparable with 
the natural areas and the problematic aspects of 
other American cities. It is, in fact, the purpose of 
these studies to emphasize not so much the partic- 
ular and local as the generic and universal aspects 
of the city and its life, and so make these studies not 
merely a contribution to our information but to our 
permanent scientific knowledge of the city as a 
communal type. 

Robert E. Park 


THE Committee on Homeless Men was organized 
by the Executive Committee of the Chicago 
Council of Social Agencies on June i6, 1922, to study 
the problem of the migratory casual worker. Its 
members included men and women in contact with 
the problem of homeless men from different points of 

Mr. Nels Anderson, a graduate student in soci- 
ology in the University of Chicago, was selected 
to make the study. Mr. Anderson was already 
thoroughly familiar with the life of the migratory 
casual worker. He had shared their experiences 
"on the road" and at work, and had visited the 
Hobohemian areas of many of the large western 
cities. In the summer of 1921, he made a study of 
400 migrants. Early in 1922, through the generous 
assistance and encouragement of Dr. William A. 
Evans, Dr. Ben L. Reitman, and Joel D. Hunter, he 
began a study of homeless men in Chicago, in connec- 
tion with a field-study course at the University of 

The assumption of this study by the Chicago 
Council of Social Agencies, in co-operation with 
the Juvenile Protective Association, enabled an 
enlargement of its scope.^ 

The object of this inquiry, from the standpoint of 
the Committee, was to secure those facts which 
would enable social agencies to deal intelligently with 
the problems created by the continuous ebb and flow, 

^ A part of the investigation relating to the effects upon the boy of associa- 
tion with tramps, especially made for the Juvenile Protective Association, is not 
included in this report, but will appear in an early number of the Journal 
of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology . 




out of and into Chicago, of tens of thousands of 
foot-loose and homeless men. Only through an 
understanding both of the human nature of the 
migratory casual worker, and of the economic and 
social forces which have shaped his personality, could 
there be devised any fundamental program for social 
agencies interested in his welfare. 

Earlier studies of the migratory casual workers in 
the United States have been limited almost entirely 
to statistical investigation. In the present inquiry 
a more intensive study of cases was decided upon in 
preference to an extensive statistical survey. For 
the past twelve months Mr. Anderson lived in Hobo- 
hemia, and in a natural and informal way secured 
upward of sixty life-histories, and collected, in addi- 
, tion, a mass of documents and other materials which 
are listed in Appendix B. Mr. Anderson has had, 
in certain parts of the field work, the assistance of 
C. W. Allen, L. G. Brown, G. F. Davis, B. W. Bridg- 
man, F. C. Frey, E. H. Koster, G. S. Sobel, H. D. 
Wolf, and R. N. Wood, students in sociology at the 
University of Chicago, and has utilized the results 
of past studies of this subject by students in the 

The Committee on Homeless Men held many 
meetings which were devoted to outlining the plan 
of investigation, to reports upon the progress of field 
work, and to the drafting of the findings and recom- 
mendations which appear as Appendix A. 

The Committee and the author are indebted to 
the social agencies and to the many persons who 
co-operated in furnishing data for this investigation. 
They desire also to express their appreciation to 
Professor Robert E. Park for the inclusion of this 



volume as the first of a series of studies on the urban 
community of which he is editor, and for his services 
in the preparation of the manuscript for pubHcation. 

Erxest W. Burgess, Chairman 

University of Chicago 
Wilfred S. ReyxoldSj Secretary 

Director, Chicago Council of Social 

Brigadier John E. x\tkins 
Salvation Army, Workingman's 

Miss Jessie Bixford 

Juvenile Protective Association 
Mrs. Joseph T. Bowex 

Juvenile Protective Association 
Frederick S. Deibler 

Advisory Board, Illinois Free Em- 
ployment Service 
T. Arnold Hill 

Chicago Urban League 
Joel D. Hunter 

United Charities of Chicago 

M. J. Karpf 

Jewish Social Service Bureau 
George B. Kilbey 

Chicago Christian Industrial League 
Rev. Moses E. Kiley 

Central Charity Bureau 

Brigadier David Miller 

Salvation Army 

Dr. Ben L. Reitman 

Chicago Department of Health 

President, Chicago Council of Social 




List of Illustrations xv 


L HoBOHEMiA Defined 3 

IL The Jungles: The Homeless Man Abroad . 16 
IIL The Lodging-House: The Homeless Man at 

Home 27 

IV. "Getting By" in Hobohemia 40 



- V. Why Do Men Leave Home ? 61 

VI. The Hobo and the Tramp 87 

VIL The Home Guard and the Bum 96 

- VIIL Work 107 



IX. Health . 125 

X. Sex Life of the Homeless Man 137 

XL The Hobo as a Citizen 150 



XII. Personalities of Hobohemia 171 

XIIL The Intellectual Life of the Hobo . . . 185 

XIV. Hobo Songs and Ballads 194 

XV. The Soap Box and the Open Forum . . . 215 

XVI. Social and Political Hobo Organization . . 230 

XVIL Missions and Welfare Organixations . . . 250 


A. Summary of Findings and Recommendations . . 265 

B. Documents and Materials 281 

C. Bibliography 291 

Index 299 




A Ca?.:? lo 


A DiKiNG-R: :v THE •'Ma::^ Stzm'", ..... 3^ 

ev.ployv.zsz bvreaus 34 

Leaders in the Edvcatio.val Move?.:e>."t 88 

A Po.'UlA?. RZ50RT IN- H0Z0HZ?.:iA 88 

Dr. Bz.v L. Rzitv^n- . , 1-2 

Mz).:3ERS 07 THZ Park I.vtziligz.vtsia iS6 

The Hobo Rzads Progrzssivz Litzr.-^.tvrz .... iS6 

The Soa?-Box O.R-^tor — Thz Ec jn-o?.:ic . 216 

A.v Outdoor Mission Mzeting — The Religiovs Plea . 216 

J.AJ.f?s Eads Hov.- 236 

A Free Lvnch at a Mission 2c? 

A Winter's Xight in a Mission 2:S 





All that Broadway is to the actors of America, West Madison 
is to its habitues — and more. Every institution of the Rialto is 
paralleled by one in West Madison. West Madison Street is 
the Rialto of the hobo. 

The hobos, themselves, do not think of Madison Street as 
the Rialto; they call it "The Main Stem," a term borrowed 
from tramp jargon, and meaning the main street of the town. 
"The Main Stem" is a more fitting term, perhaps, than the 
Rialto, but still inadequate. West Madison Street is more than 
a mere Rialto, more than the principal hobo thoroughfare of 
Chicago. It is the Pennsylvania Avenue, the Wilhelmstrasse 
of the anarchy of Hobohemia. — From an unpublished paper on 
the hobo, by Harry M. Beardsley, of the Chicago Daily News, 
March 20, 191 7. 

AstjRVEY of the lodging-house and hotel popula- 
tion, supplemented by the census reports of the 
areas in which they live, indicates that the number of 
homeless men in Chicago ranges from 30,000 in good 
times to 75,000 in hard times. 

We may say that approximately one-third of 
these are permanent residents of the city. The other 
two-thirds are here today and gone tomorrow. When 
work is plentiful they seldom linger in the city more 
than a week at a time. In winter when jobs are 
scarce, and it takes courage to face the inclement 
weather, the visits to town lengthen to three weeks 
and a month. From 300,000 to 500,000 of these 
migratory men pass through the city during the 
course of a normal year. 

A still larger number are wanderers who have 
spent their days and their strength on the "long, 
gray road" and have fled to this haven for succor. 
They are Chicago's portion of the down-and-outs. 




An investigation of i,ooo dependent, homeless men made in 
Chicago in 191 1 indicated that 254, or more than one-fourth of 
the 1,000 examined, were either temporarily crippled or maimed. 
Some 89 of this 1,000, or 9 per cent, were manifestly either insane, 
feeble-minded, or epileptic. This did not include those large 
numbers of border-line cases in which vice or an overwhelming 
desire to wander had assumed the character of a mania. 

Homeless men are largely single men. Something like 
75 per cent of the cases examined were single, while only 9 per 
cent admitted they were married. 

"main stems" 

Every large city has its district into which these 
i/ homeless types gravitate. In the parlance of the 
"road'' such a section is known as the "stem" or 
the "main drag." To the homeless man it is home, 
for there, no matter how sorry his lot, he can find 
those who will understand. The veteran of the 
road finds other veterans; the old man finds the 
aged; the chronic grouch finds fellowship; the 
radical, the optimist, the crook, the inebriate, all 
find others here to tune in with them. The wanderer 
finds friends here or enemies, but, and that is at 
once a characteristic and pathetic feature of Hobo- 
hemia, they are friends or enemies only for the day. 
They meet and pass on. 

Hobohemia is divided into four parts — west, 
south, north, and east — and no part is more than 
five minutes from the heart of the Loop. They are 
all the "stem" as they are also Hobohemia. This 
four-part concept, Hobohemia, is Chicago to the 

THE "slave market" 

To the men of the road. West Madison Street is 
the "slave market." It is the slave market because 



here most of the employment agencies are located. 
Here men in search of work bargain for jobs in 
distant places with the "man catchers" from the 
agencies. Most of the men on West Madison Street 
are looking for work. If they are not seeking work 
they want jobs, at least; jobs that have long rides 
thrown in. Most of the men seen here are young, 
at any rate they are men under middle age; restless, 
seeking, they parade the streets and scan the signs 
chalked on the windows or smeared over colored 
posters. Eager to "ship" somewhere, they are 
generally interested in a job as a means to reach a 
destination. The result is that distant jobs are in 
demand while good, paying, local jobs usually go 

West Madison, being a port of homeless men, 
has its own characteristic institutions and pro-, 
fessions. The bootlegger is at home here; the dope 
peddler hunts and finds here his victims; here thej 
professional gambler plies his trade and the "jack 
roller," as he is commonly called, the man who rob^ 
his fellows, while they are drunk or asleep; these and 
others of their kind find in the anonymity of this 
changing population the freedom and security that 
only the crowded city offers. 

The street has its share also of peddlers, beggars, 
cripples, and old, broken men; men worn out with 
the adventure and vicissitudes of life on the road. 
One of its most striking characteristics is the almost 
complete absence of women and children; it is the 
most completely womanless and childless of all the 
city areas. It is quite definitely a man's street. 

West Madison Street, near the river, has always 
been a stronghold of the casual laborer. At one 



time it was a rendezvous for the seamen, but of late 
these have made South Chicago their haven. Even 
before the coming of the factories, before family life 
had wholly departed, this was an area of the home- 
less man. It will continue to be so, no doubt, until 
big businesses or a new union depot crowds the hobo 
out. Then he will move farther out into that area 
of deteriorated property that inevitably grows up 
just outside the business center of the city, where 
property, which has been abandoned for residences, 
has not yet been taken over by businesses, and where 
land values are high but rents are low. 

Jefferson Park, between Adams and Monroe and 
west of Throop Street, is an appanage of the "slave 
market." It is the favorite place for the "bos" to 
sleep in summer or to enjoy their leisure, relating 
their adventures and reading the papers. On the 
"stem" it is known as "Bum Park," and men who 
visit it daily know no other name for it. A certain 
high spot of ground in the park is generally designated 
as "Crumb Hill." It is especially dedicated to 
"drunks." At any rate, the drunk and the drowsy 
seem inevitably to drift to this rise of ground. In 
fact, so many men visit the place that the grass 
under the trees seems to be having a fierce struggle 
to hold its own. It must be said, however, that the 
men who go to "Bum Park" are for the most part 
sober and well behaved. It is too far out for the 
more confirmed Madison Street bums to walk. The 
town folks of the neighborhood use the park, to a 
certain extent, but the women and children of the 
neighborhood are usually outnumbered by the men 
of the road, who monopolize the benches and crowd 
the shady places. 



hobohemia's playground 

The thing that characterizes State Street south 
of the Loop is the burlesque show. It is here that 
the hobo, seeking entertainment, is cheered and 
gladdened by the "bathing beauties" and the ori- 
ental dancers. Here, also, he finds improvement at 
the hands of the lady barbers, who, it is reported, 
are using these men as a wedge to make their way 
into a profitable profession that up to the present 
time has belonged almost wholly to men. 

South State Street differs from West Madison in 
many particulars. For one thing there are more 
women here, and there is nothing like so complete^ 
an absence of family life. The male population, like- 
wise, is of a totally different complexion. The 
prevailing color is an urban pink, rather than the 
rural grime and bronze of the man on the road. 
There are not so many restless, seeking youngsters. 

Men do not parade the streets in groups of threes 
and fours with their coats or bundles under their 
arms. There are no employment offices on this 
street. They are not needed. Nobody wants to go 
anywhere. When these men work they are content 
to take some short job in the city. Short local jobs 
are at a premium. Many of these men have petty 
jobs about the city where they work a few hours a 
day and are able to earn enough to live. In winter 
many men will be found in the cheap hotels on 
South State, Van Buren, or South Clark streets who 
have been able to save enough money during the 
summer to house themselves during the cold weather. 
State Street is the rendezvous of the vagabond who 
has settled and retired, the "home guard" as they 
are rather contemptuously referred to by the tribe 



of younger and more adventurous men who still 
choose to take the road. 

The white man's end of the south section of 
Hobohemia does not extend south of Twelfth Street. 
From that point on to about Thirtieth Street there 
is an area that has been taken over by the colored 
population. Colored people go much farther south, 
but if there are any homeless men in the "Black 
Belt/' they are likely to be found along State Street, 
between Twenty-second and Thirtieth. The Douglas 
Hotel, in this region, is a colored man's lodging-house. 

To the south and southwest are the railroad 
yards. In summer homeless men find these yards 
a convenient place to pass the night. For those 
who wish to leave the city, they are the more acces- 
sible than the yards on the north and west. The 
railroad yard is, in most places, one of the hobo's 
favorite holdouts. It is a good place to loaf. There 
are coal and wood and often vacant spaces where he 
can build fires and cook food or keep warm. This 
is not so easily done in Chicago where the tramp's 
most deadly enemy, the railroad police, are numerous 
and in closer co-operation with the civil authorities 
than in most cities. In spite of this, hobos hang 
about the yards. 


On the north side of the river, Clark Street below 
Chicago Avenue is the "stem." Here a class of 
transients have drifted together, forming a group 
unlike any in either of the other areas of Hobohemia. 
/This is the region of the hobo intellectuals. This 
area may be described as the rendezvous of the 
thinker, the dreamer, and the chronic agitator. 



Many of its denizens are "home guards." Few- 
transients ever turn up here; they do not have time. 
They alone come here who have time to think, 
patience to hsten, or courage to talk. Washington 
Square is the center of the northern area. To the 
"bos'' it is " Bughouse Square." Many people do not 
know any other name for it. This area is as near 
to the so-called Latin Quarter as the hobo dare come. 
"Bughouse Square" is, in fact, quite as much the 
stronghold of the more or less vagabond poets, 
artists, writers, revolutionists, of various types as of 
the go-abouts. Among themselves this region is 
known as the "village." 

Bohemia and Hobohemia meet at "Bughouse 
Square." On Sundays and holidays, any evening, 
in fact, when the weather permits, it will be teeming 
with life. At such times all the benches will be 
occupied. On the grass in the shade of the trees 
men sit about in little groups of a dozen or less. 
The park, except a little corner to the southeast 
where the women come to read, or knit, or gossip, 
while the children play, is completely in possession 
of men. A polyglot population swarms here. 
Tramps, and hobos — yes, but they are only scat- 
teringly represented. Pale-faced denizens of the 
Russian tearooms, philosophers and enthusiasts 
from the "Blue Fish," brush shoulders with kindred 
types from the "Dill Pickle," the "Green Mask," 
the "Gray Cottage." Free-lance propagandists who 
belong to no group and claim no following, non- 
conformists, dreamers, fakers, beggars, bootleggers, 
dope fiends — they are all here. 

Around the edges of the Square the curbstone 
orators gather their audiences. Religion, politics, 



science, the economic struggle, these are the princi- 
pal themes of discussion in this outdoor forum. 
Often there are three or four audiences gathered at 
the same time in different parts of the park, each 
carrying on a different discussion. One may be 
calling miserable sinners to repent, and the other 
denouncing all religion as superstition. Opposing 
speakers frequently follow each other, talking^to the 
same audience. In this aggregation of minds the 
most striking thing is the variety and violence of 
the antipathies. There is, notwithstanding, a gen- 
erous tolerance. It is probably a tolerance growing 
out of the fact, that, although everyone talks and 
argues, no one takes the other seriously. It helps 
to pass the time and that is why folks come to 
"Bughouse Square." 

To the hobo who thinks, even though he does not 
think well, the lower North Side is a great source of 
comfort. On the North Side he finds people to 
whom he can talk and to whom he is willing to 
listen. Hobos do not generally go there to listen, 
however, but burning with a message of which they 
are bound to unburden themselves. They go to 
speak, perhaps to write. Many of them are there 
to get away from the sordidness of life in other 
areas of Hobohemia. 

A "jungle" on the lake front 

Grant Park, east of Michigan Avenue, is a loafing 
place for hobos with time on their hands. They 
gather here from all parts of Hobohemia to read the 
papers, to talk, and to kill time. For men who have 
not had a bed it is a good place to sleep when the 
sun is kind and the grass is warm. In the long 




summer evenings Grant Park is a favorite gathering 
place for men who Hke to get together to tell yarns 
and to frolic. It is a favorite rendezvous for the 
boy tramps. 

The section of Grant Park facing the lake shore 
is no less popular. Along the shore from the Field 
Museum northward to Randolph Street the home- 
less men have access to the lake. They take advan- 
tage of the unimproved condition of the park and 
make of the place, between the railroad tracks and 
the lake, a retreat, a resort, a social center. Here 
they wash their clothes, bathe, sew, mend shoes. 

Behind the Field Museum, on the section of the 
park that is still being used as a dump for rubbish, 
the hobos have established a series of camps or 
"jungles." Here, not more than five minutes from 
the Loop, are numerous improvised shacks in which 
men live. Many men visit these sections only for 
the day. To them it is a good place to come to 
fish and they spend hours gazing at the water and 
trying to keep the little fish from biting. 


The hobo has no social centers other than the 
"stem," and the "jungle." He either spends his 
leisure in the "jungles" or in town. The "jungle" 
ordinarily is a station on his way to town. Life 
revolves for him around his contacts on the "stem," i 
and it is to town he hies himself whenever free to \ 
do so. 

Few casuals can give any reason for the attrac- 
tion that the city has for them. Few have ever 
considered it. The explanations they give, when 
pressed for reasons, are more or less matter of fact 



and center in their material interests. Other mo- 
tives, motives of which they are only half conscious, 
undoubtedly influence them. 

^ The city is the labor exchange for the migratory 
worker and even for the migratory non-worker who 
is often just as ambitious to travel. When he is 
tired of a job, or when the old job is finished, he 
goes to town to get another in some other part of 
the country. The labor exchanges facilitate this 
turnover of seasonal labor. They enable a man to 
leave the city "on the cushins." This is the lure 
that draws him to the city. Hobohemia brings the 
job-seeking man and the man-seeking job together. 
Migrants have always known that a larger variety of 
jobs and a better assortment of good "shipments" 
were to be had in Chicago than elsewhere. 

Chicago is the greatest railway center in the United States. 
No one knows these facts better than the hobo. It is a fact that 
trains from all points of the compass are constantly entering 
and leaving the city over its 39 different railways. According 
to the Chicago City Manual^ there are 2,840 miles of steam 
railways within the city hmits. The mileage of steam railroad 
track in Chicago is equal to the entire railroad mileage in Switzer- 
land and Belgium, and is greater than the steam railroad mileage 
found in each of the kingdoms of Denmark, Holland, Norway, 
and Portugal. Twenty-five through package cars leave Chicago 
every day for 18,000 shipping points in 44 states. 

The termination of the seasonal occupations 
brings men cityward. They come here for shelter 
during the winter, and not only for shelter but for 
inside winter work. This is the hobo's only alterna- 
tive, provided he cannot go to California or to one 
of the southern states. The dull routine of the in- 
side job, which seemed so unattractive in the spring- 
time, looks better with the falling of the temperature. 



We may add, also, that many of the men who are 
attracted to the city in winter are not particularly 
interested in work. There are, however, among the 
improvident tramp class, "wise virgins" who save 
in the summer in order to enjoy the life of a board- 
ing-house during the winter. 

The hobo often goes to town for medical attention. 
For the sick and injured of the floating fraternity 
Chicago is a haven of refuge because of the large i 
number of opportunities found here for free treat- I 
ment. The county hospital, the dispensaries, and 
the medical colleges are well known to these men. 
Many get well and go their way, others get no 
farther than the hospital — and then the morgue. 

A man whose income is limited to a few hundred 
dollars a year can do more with it in the large city 
than in a small town. In no other American city 
will a dollar go farther than in Chicago. It is not 
uncommon to find men living in Hobohemia on less 
than a dollar a day. Large numbers make possible 
cheap service, and cheap service brings the men. 


Not only the extent, but the nature of the 
problem of the homeless man is revealed by a study 
of his numbers. In Chicago all estimates are in 
substantial agreement that the population of Hobo- 
hemia never falls below 30,000 in summer, doubles 
this figure in winter, and has reached 75,000 and 
over in periods of unemployment."" 

^ Mrs. Solenberger's figures of more than a decade ago put the number of 
the various types of homeless men in this city at 40,000-60,000: 

"No exact census of the total number of homeless men of various types in 
the lodging-house districts of Chicago has been taken, but 40,000 is considered 
a conservative estimate by several careful students of the question who are 



These numbers, while large, are only between i 
and 2^ per cent of Chicago's population of nearly 
3,000,000. Homeless men, however, are not dis- 
tributed evenly throughout the city; they are con- 
centrated, segregated, as we have seen, in three 
contiguous narrow areas close to the center of 
transportation and trade. 

This segregation of tens of thousands of foot- 
loose, homeless, and not to say hopeless men is the 
fact fundamental to an understanding of the prob- 
lem. Their concentration has created an isolated 
cultural area — Hobohemia. Here characteristic 
institutions have arisen — cheap hotels, lodging- 
houses, flops, eating joints, outfitting shops, employ- 

closely in touch with local conditions. This number is somewhat increased at 
election times and very greatly increased when word goes out, as it did during 
the winter of 1907-8, that relief funds were being collected and free lodgings 
and food would be furnished to the unemployed. In December, January, 
February, and March of that winter all private lodging-houses were filled to 
overflowing, and the Municipal Lodging House, its annex, and two other houses 
which it operated gave a total of 79,41 1 lodgings to homeless men as compared 
with 6,930 for the same months of the winter before, an increase of 72,481. 
The Health Department, which took charge of the municipal lodging-houses 
and made a careful study of local conditions during the winter of 1907-8, esti- 
mated the number of homeless men then in Chicago to be probably not less 
than 60,000." — One Thousand Homeless Men, p. 9, n. 

Nearly if not quite one-fifth of the 700 hotels in Chicago cater to the 
migratory and casual worker. The 63 hotels visited by investigators in this 
study had a total capacity for the accommodation of 1 5,000 men. On the basis 
of these figures, it seems safe to put the total capacity of the hotels in Hobohemian 
areas at 25,000-30,000. A like number of men are probably provided for in 
nearby boarding- and lodging-houses. Thousands of other men sleep at the 
docks, in engine rooms, in vacant houses, in flophouses, or in summer in the 

The returns of the 1920 United States census show that in the three wards 
of the city in which Hobohemian areas are located there are 28,105 more male 
than female residents. This figure indicates that the so-called "home guard" 
numbers about 30,000, the summer population of Hobohemia. 

The Jewish Bureau of Social Service estimates that the number of home- 
less men in Chicago at any one time in the winter of 1921-22 was 120,000. 
This figure, which seems high when compared with estimates arrived at by other 
methods of calculation, assumes that the proportion of homeless men for the 
city is the same as that for the Jewish community. 



ment agencies, missions, radical bookstores, welfare 
agencies, economic and political institutions — to 
minister to the needs, physical and spiritual, of the 
homeless man. This massing of detached and 
migratory men upon a small area has created an 
environment in which gamblers, dope venders, boot- 
leggers, and pickpockets can live and thrive. 

The mobility of the migratory worker com- 
plicates the problem of the missions, police, and 
welfare agencies. The mission measures its success 
not only in numbers of converts but in the numbers 
of men fed and lodged. The police department, 
on the contrary, alarmed by the influx of hobos and 
tramps in response to free meals and free flops, has 
adopted a policy of severity and repression for the 
protection of the community. Welfare agencies, 
opposing alike the demoralizing results of indis- 
criminate feeding and lodging, and the negative 
policy of the police, favor a program of organized 
effort based upon an investigation of the needs of 
each individual case. 



IN THE city, under ordinary circumstances, the 
homeless man gathers with his kind. Even so 
he is very much alone and his contacts with his 
fellows are relatively formal and distant. 

City life is interesting but full of danger. Even 
in a world where the conditions of life are so elemen- 
tary, prudence dictates a certain amount of reserve 
and hence formality and convention in the relations of 
men. The flophouse and the cheap hotel compel 
promiscuity, but do not encourage intimacy or neigh- 
borliness. On the outskirts of cities, however, the 
homeless men have established social centers that 
they call "jungles," places where the hobos congre- 
gate to pass their leisure time outside the urban 
centers. The jungle is to the tramp what the camp 
ground is to the vagabond who travels by auto. It 
has for the hobo, perhaps, greater significance, since 
it becomes a necessary part of his daily life. The 
evening camp fire for the tourist, on the contrary, is a 
novelty merely, an experience but not a necessity. 


Jungles are usually located in close proximity to a 
railroad division point, where the trains are made up 
or where trains stop to change crews and engines. 
Sometimes they are located near a "tank town," 
where occasional stops are made for water or fuel. 
Not infrequently they are near the intersection of 
railroad lines. In the South, and on the West Coast, 
jungles are often located along the highways. This 
is due to the fact that many men go South in winter 




not to work but to escape the rigors of the northern 
climate. The railroad for the time being has no 
attraction for them and they are content to stroll 
abroad, seeing the country. In the West, where 
men frequently carry bedding and cooking equip- 
ment, they can camp anywhere. It is easier for 
them, therefore, to leave the railroad and venture 
along the highways. 

Accessibility to a railroad is only one of the|, 
requirements of a good jungle. It should be located 
in a dry and shady place that permits sleeping on the 
ground. There should be plenty of water for cooking 
and bathing and wood enough to keep the pot boil- 
ing. If there is a general store near by where bread, 
meat, and vegetables may be had, so much the better. 
For those who have no money, but enough courage to 
**bum lumps," it is well that the jungles be not too far 
from a town, though far enough to escape the atten- 
tion of the natives and officials, the town clowns." 

Jungle camps may be divided into two classes — 
the temporary and the permanent, or continuous. — 
Temporary jungles are merely stop-over or relay sta- 
tions inhabited intermittently by the men of the road. 
Men temporarily stranded in a town usually seek a 
secluded spot at the edge of a village, not too far 
from the railroad, where they may while away the 
time without being molested. Men on the road look 
for places where other men preceding them have 
camped. There they are likely to find pots and 
kettles in which to cook food or wash clothes. At 
points where trains stop frequently, making it pos- 
sible for men to get away at any time, the population 
of a temporary jungle is likely to be larger and more 



The continuous or permanent jungles are seldom 
deserted, at least in summer. There is usually some- 
one there to keep the fire burning and usually there 
are men or boys occupied at various tasks — cooking, 
washing or boiling clothes, shaving, sewing, bathing, 
and reading. 

Women are often found in the areas of the cities 
where the homeless men congregate but not in the 
I jungles. Here is an institution where the hobo is 
his own housewife. He not only cooks his own 
food, but has even invented dishes that are peculiar 
to jungle life. Chief among these is "mulligan" 
stew. "Mulligan," or "combination," is a "throw 
together" of vegetables and meat. There are certain 
ideal mixtures of vegetables and meat, but the tramp 
makes "mulligan" from anything that is at hand. 
Onions, potatoes, and beef are the prime essentials. 
Some men become adept at frying and roasting over 
camp fires. 

The hobo who lives in the jungles has proved that 
he can become domesticated without the aid of 
women. He has established the habit of keeping his 
clothes and person clean. It is not difficult to select 
from a group of transients the men who have just 
come from the jungles. Their clothes will be clean 
and even bear evidence of jungle sewing. Overalls 
that have seen service will be bleached almost white 
from numerous washings. The hobo learns here the 
housewife's art of keeping pots clean and the camp 
in order. The man who cannot, or will not, learn 
these few elementary principles of housekeeping is 
likely to fare ill in the jungle. 

If it is a warm day some men will be sleeping. 
They may have been riding trains all night or have 



found the night too cold for sleep. A daily paper 
from an adjoining town may be going the rounds. 
There may be newspapers from different cities 
brought in by men traveling different directions. 
Travelers meeting this way have much of common 
interest to talk about and conversation is enlivened 
with discussions of questions of concern to '*bos." 
The jungle is always astir with life and movement, 
and the hobo enters into this life as he does no other. 
Here he turns his back on the world and faces his 
fellows, and is at ease. 

Absolute democracy reigns in the jungle. The 
color line has been drawn in some camps, but it is the 
general custom, and especially in the North, for 
Negroes, Mexicans, and whites to share the same 
jungle. The jungle is the melting pot of trampdom. 

The average man of the road has had a variety of 
experience and not a little adventure. In the jungles 
there is always an audience for anyone who wants to 
talk, whether of his thoughts, his experiences, or his 
observations. There is plenty of opportunity to tell 
stories. The art of telling a story is diligently culti- 
vated by the "bos" in the assemblies about the fire. 
This vagabond existence tends to enrich the person- 
ality and long practice has developed in some of these 
men an art of personal narrative that has greatly 
declined elsewhere. Many of them develop into 
fascinating raconteurs in the literal as well as the 
literary sense of the term. Talk in the jungle is of 
the open road and the day to come, and in that there 
is sufficient matter to occupy them. 

Jungle populations are ever changing. Every 
hour new faces appear to take the place of those that 
have passed on. They come and go without cere- 



mony, with scarcely a greeting or fare-you-well." 
Every new member is of interest for the news he 
brings or the rumors that he spreads. Each is 
interested in the other so far as he has something to 
tell about the road over which he has come, the work 
conditions, the behavior of the police, or other sig- 
nificant details. But with all the discussion there is 
, seldom any effort to discuss personal relations and 
connections. Here is one place where every man's 
past is his own secret. 

Only in the case of very young boys or sick men 
and sometimes old men is there any effort to learn 
something of the individual's past. Men will brush 
elbows in the jungles for days and even weeks with- 
out ever learning one another's names. They live 
closed lives and grant others the same privilege. 


In every permanent camp there is likely to be a 
permanent group that makes the camp its head- 
quarters. Sometimes these groups are able to take 
possession and exploit the transient guests. The 
I.W.W. has at times been able to exclude everyone 
who did not carry the red card of that organization. 
As a rule, however, the jungle is extremely hospitable 
and democratic. 

The freedom of the jungles is, however, limited by 
a code of etiquette. Jungle laws are unwritten, but 
strictly adhered to. The breaking of these rules, if 
intentional, leads to expulsion, forced labor, or phys- 
ical punishment. 

Jungle crimes include (i) making fire by night in jungles 
subject to raids; (2) **hi-jacking/' or robbing men at night 
when sleeping in the jungles; "buzzing," or making the jungle 



a permanent hangout for jungle "buzzards'* who subsist on 
the leavings of meals; (4) wasting food or destroying it after 
eating is a serious crime; (5) leaving pots and other utensils 
dirty after using; (6) cooking without first hustling fuel; (7) 
destroying jungle equipment. In addition to these fixed offenses 
are other crimes which are dealt with as they arise. Men are 
supposed to use cooking cans for cooking only, "boiling up" 
cans for washing clothing, coffee cans to cook coffee, etc. After 
using, guests are expected to clean utensils, dry them, and 
leave them turned bottom side up so that they will not fill with 
rainwater and rust. They are expected to keep the camp clean. 
To enforce such common-sense rules, self-appointed committees 
come into existence.^ 

Exclusive camps are usually the result of the 
efforts of the older residents to enforce discipline. 
Most ^'jungle buzzards," men who linger in the 
jungles from season to season, take an interest in 
the running of things. For the most part they are 
parasitic, begging food from others, but they are 
generally on the alert to keep the place clean and 

The following description of a day in the jungles 
was written by a migratory worker, a man who knows 
the life from years of experience. His narrative pre- 
sents a faithful picture of an average day in an 
average jungle. 

A Day in the Jungles 

i.^ This jungle is on the edge of a strip of timber. A stream 
fed from a spring runs into the lake near by. The empty box 

^ It is interesting here to note that there is a striking parallel between the 
rules of the jungles and the rules of cow camps and other camps of the hills. It 
is the custom of the cow men of the west to maintain camps in the hills which 
are stocked with provisions and equipped with utensils and furnishings. These 
camps are usually left open and anyone who passes is welcome to spend the 
night, provided he puts the place in order when he leaves. 

2 The documents from which extracts have been taken are numbered 
consecutively in the text. For complete list of documents used in each chapter 
see pp. 281-88. 



cars on the railroad siding close by offer protection against rain 
and a place to sleep. Half a mile away is the junction of two 
railroads where all trains stop, and a mile and a half further on 
is a small town. 

At one o'clock in the morning a few men step off a freight 
train. One speaks up: "Does anyone know if there is a jungle 
in this place ?" "Yes," someone answers, "The jungle is up 
in that direction," pointing towards a woods, "but what's the 
use in going over there now ? You can't build a fire at this time 
of night. I am going to hunt up a box car for a flop." 

After a moment of silence someone else asks, "Any town 
close by ?" "Yes, there it is," replies another, pointing to 
some lights showing in the distance. The men form groups 
according to acquaintance and talk in a low tone. "Come on, 
let us hunt up a place to flop till daylight." The different 
groups start off. One starts out for the town, one goes towards 
the box cars, and one makes for the jungles. I was with the 
group bound for the jungles. 

A hundred feet from the railroad right-of-way under the 
darkness of big trees we see three or four dying camp fires. 
Around one fire we can see the shadows of men. Some are 
sitting on the butts of logs, smoking or dozing; others are 
stretched out on the ground sound asleep. 

The new arrivals walk up to the fire, look over the bunch to 
find, perhaps, some old acquaintances. Then some of us find 
seats or lie down; others, with as little noise as possible, hunt 
up cans which they fill with water and place over the glowing 
coals. The men take ground coffee from packages in their 
pockets and pour it into boiling water. The feed is open to 
everybody. Bread and sausage are brought out; even sugar 
is passed around as long as it lasts. The men eat in silence. 
Each one takes the utensils he used and walks to the creek to 
wash them. Nearly all of the men then lie down, but some 
leave. Nobody asks anyone about himself and nobody says 
"hello" or "goodbye." 

Daylight comes. The breaking of sticks for firewood is 
heard. Fires are started, cooking utensils are chosen. The law 
of the jungle is that no one can call a vessel his except at the 
time he uses it. Packages and receptacles are opened revealing 
food of all kinds. Eating commences. If any man with more 
than enough for himself sees someone else not eating, it is 



etiquette to offer to share with his neighbor. If the other man 
accepts the offer, he thereby takes upon himself the responsibiHty 
of cleaning the dishes. 

At any time men will be seen leaving the jungles to hustle 
food, or to get wood, or to catch trains. Anytime is eating time 
in the jungles and someone is always bringing in "chuck" that 
he has bought or "bummed." Talking goes on as long as the 
daylight lasts. Heated arguments often develop. Papers and 
pamphlets are distributed, union cards are taken out; business 
meetings are held to decide policies and actions, how to get the 
next meal or how to win the battle between labor and capital. 

About ten o'clock in the morning two townsmen displaying 
stars come into the jungle. One of them tells the men that they 
will have to clean out because people are kicking. A holdup 
has been committed in town the night before and they intend 
to prevent any more from being committed, "So you fellers 
have to leave." 

One man in the jungles speaks up and tells the officers that 
we are not holdup men, that we are getting ourselves something 
to eat, and that we have got to have some place to do that. 
"We have paid for everything. What would you do if you was 
in our place; go into town and get pulled and let the town 
feed us ?" 

The officer looks nonplussed, but curtly replies, "Well, I 
am going by orders." After that he walks away. The timid 
men leave the jungle. The others reply by roundly cursing 
indiscriminately all their enemies. They are town clowns, 
sky pilots, Bible ranters, bulls, politicians, home guards, hicks, 
stool pigeons, systems, scissor bills, and capitalists. Incidentally 
they advocate strikes, rebellion, mass action, complete revolu- 
tion of the pohtical system, abolishment of the wage system. 

It is close to twelve o'clock. Fires are replenished, cans, 
pots and pans are put into service. Plans are being made in 
anticipation of a coming raid by the police. At two o'clock, 
someone suggests a song. After a fiery song of the class struggle, 
a speech follows advising the men to organize. 

By three o'clock only about fifteen or twenty are left in the 
jungle. The officer followed by townsmen armed with guns 
return. Some of the hobos retreat into the woods. Those 
remaining are ordered to hold up their hands with "You damn 
bums" added to the command. Some comply, others refuse. 



One even has the courage to shout, "Go ahead and shoot, you 
damn cowards." This starts a general shooting into every pot, 
pan and can in sight. The men scatter. 

After the invaders leave, an inventory is immediately made 
to assess the damage. Since the utensils in best condition had 
been hidden in the brush, no serious loss to the jungle has 

By four o'clock the story of the raid has traveled and men 
come in from all directions. The decision of the majority is to 
remain in the jungle over night. Food is brought in and prepara- 
tions for supper begin. The men are doubling up to cook 
together. Those belonging to certain unions have as many as 
eight or ten in a bunch. There are from thirty to forty angry 
men in camp by now and more are coming in. There is some 
talk of revenge. 

By six o'clock supper is well under way. Several fires are 
burning. Containers of every description are used to cook in; 
broken shovels and tie plates are used to fry on, empty tobacco 
tins are used as cups, and tomato cans serve as fry pans, soup 
kettles and soap dishes. Potatoes are roasted on the coals, 
wires are bent upon which to broil meat. All are still talking 
excitedly of the clash with the poHce. 

While some of the men are busily engaged in cooking, others 
are sewing and mending their clothes or shoes, and still others are 
shaving. Now and then as at breakfast someone will shout, 
asking if anybody wants some spuds or a piece of punk or a 
piece of "gut" (sausage); and usually there is an affirmative 
answer. After supper, pans and cans are cleaned out, the paper 
is read and passes the rounds. Already it is growing dark, and 
the hunt begins for dry sleeping places. 

Suddenly a commotion is started; a man is roughly rushed 
into the open. He is a hi-jack caught in the act of robbing a 
fellow who was sleeping, a greater crime in the jungle than an 

open hold up. Cries of "Burn the " and "Let us hang 

him!" are heard from all sides. A council is hurriedly called, a 
chairman is selected, motions are made with amendments and 
substitutes. After a short discussion a vote is taken to give 
him a whipping. The man is tied to a tree facing toward it. 
His back is bared, and men are called for to apply punishment. 
No one steps forward; everybody declines to apply the strap 
or stick. 



Another council is called but before they get started a young 
fellow has declared his willingness to fight the hi-jack to a 
finish because he knew him and didn't like him anyway. The 
proposition is accepted. The hi-jack is more than ten pounds 
heavier than the challenger; but whether from fear or not, for 
he knows that the challenger has the crowd back of him to a 
man, the hi-jack is slow to start. Perhaps he feels that the 
crowd will give him a beating whether he wins or not. He soon 
loosens up but he does not show the goods. The "bo" is more 
than a match for him but the hi-jack does not give up easily. 
He displays some courage but the "bo" fights like a madman 
and strikes the hi-jack blow after blow. The fight lasts more 
than ten minutes before the hi-jack is completely knocked out. 

After he gets to his feet he is given a chance to wash his face 
and stick paper on the cuts; then he is "frisked," that is, ordered 
to donate all but one dollar to the jungle. Then he is sent out 
of camp with orders not to show up in any of the diggings along 
the line for it would be murder if anyone should spot him. 

By eleven o'clock the excitement is over. Different men 
announce that they were headed for so and so and that the 
freight starts at such a time. To this someone replies that he 
is going that way too so they start off together. Others walk 
back among the trees to the places where they have prepared 
to sleep. Others who have insufficient clothes to stand the 
night chill bunch up around the glowing camp fires. Soon 
everything is quiet except for an occasional sound out of the 
darkness of men mumbling in conversation. Occasionally the 
sound of groans and snores or sighs, or curses are heard. These 
betray the dreams of men living like hunted animals. 

I look at my watch and note that it is near midnight and 
that all is over for the night, so I curl up on some papers beside 
a bed of coals. ^ 


The part played by the jungles as an agency ofJ 
discipline for the men of the road cannot be over-] 
estimated. Here hobo tradition and law are formu- 
lated and transmitted. It is the nursery of tramp 

^ Written by A. W. Dragstedt, secretary in 1922 of the "Hobo College" of 



lore. Here the fledgling learns to behave like an 
old-timer. In the jungles the slang of the road and 
the cant of the tramp class is coined and circulated. 
It may originate elsewhere but here it gets recogni- 
tion. The stories and songs current among the men 
of the road, the sentiments, the attitudes, and the 
philosophy of the migratory laborer are all given due 
airing. In short, every idea and ideal that finds 
lodgment in the tramp's fancy may be expressed here 
in the wayside forum where anyone who thinks may 
speak, whether he be a jester or a sage. 

Suspicion and hostility are the universal attitudes 
of the town or small city to the hobo and the tramp. 
Accordingly, the so-called "floater" custom of pass- 
ing vagrants on to other communities is widespread.^ 
The net eff'ect of this policy is to intensify the anti- 
social attitude of the homeless man and to release 
and accentuate criminal tendencies. The small town 
is helpless to cope with the situation. As things 
are, its action perhaps cannot be different. Agri- 
culture, as it becomes organized upon a capitalistic 
basis, is increasingly dependent upon seasonal labor, 
in harvesting crops for example. The report of the 
Commission on Industrial Relations states: 

The attempts to regulate movements of migratory workers 
by local organizations have, without exception, proved failures. 
This must necessarily be true no matter how well planned or 
well managed such local organizations may be. The problem 
cannot be handled except on a national scale and by methods 
and machinery which are proportioned to the enormous size 
and complexity of the problem.^ 

' For a discussion of the practice of "floating" with reference to the treat- 
ment of misdemeanants, see Stuart A. Queen, T/ie Passing of the County Jail. 

Final Report y p. 158. 




HOBOHEMIA is a lodging-house area. The 
accommodations it offers the homeless man 
range from a bed in a single room for fifty cents to 
location on the floor of an empty loft for a dime. 
Lodging-house keepers take thin profits but they 
serve large numbers. There are usually more men 
than there are beds, particularly in winter. An 
estimate indicates that all hotels are full from 
December to May. During the rest of the year 
they are likely to be filled to two-thirds of their 

Chicago has known three types of cheap hotels: 
the so-called "barrel-house," the welfare institution, 
and the business enterprise. The first, the barrel- 
house, was a rooming-house, saloon, and house 
of prostitution, all in one. Men with money usu- 
ally spent it in the barrel-houses. There they found 
warmth and companionship. They would join the 
circle at the bar, buy drinks for the crowd, and 
have a good time. Men who were afraid of being 
robbed placed their money with the bartender and 
charged against it the drinks purchased. As soon 
as they were overcome by drink they would be 
taken upstairs to bed. The following day the pro- 
gram would be repeated. A three- or four-hundred- 
dollar stake at this rate usually lasted a week. Not 
infrequently the barrel-house added to its other 
attractions the opportunity for gambling. 

The barrel-house is a thing of the past. Its place 
has been taken in part by hotels like the Working- 




men's Palace; the Reliance; the New Century, owned 
and operated by the Salvation Army; the Rufus F. 
Dawes, owned and maintained by General C. G. 
Dawes; the Popular Hotel, owned and maintained 
by the Chicago Christian Industrial League. In 
places of this sort, charges are small, usually not 
enough to cover operating expenses. 

The Rufus F. Dawes and the Workingmen's 
Palace are both large, fire-proof structures, clean and 
modern, constructed originally for other purposes. 
Like all paternalistic, quasi-charitable institutions, 
however, they are not popular, although the charges 
for a room and bed are hardly sufficient to cover the 
operating expenses. This is the second type of 

The pioneers in the cheap hotel business in Chi- 
cago operated on a commercial basis were Harvey and 
McGuire, the founders of the well-known Harvey- 
McGuire hotel system. Harvey, an evangelist, in his 
work with the "down-and-outs" had learned the 
evils of barrel-houses. He went into a partnership 
with McGuire, a man acquainted with the rough 
side of life. After a number of years the Harvey- 
McGuire system went out of existence. McGuire 
went into the hotel business for himself and now owns 
a number of cheap lodging-houses. Harvey sold his 
interests to his nephew and went back to evangelistic 
work. The nephew went into partnership with Mr. 
Dammarell. There are eight hotels in the present 
Harvey-Dammarell system with a combined capacity 
for lodging 3,000 men. The Ideal opened in 1884, 
probably the oldest men's hotel in the city, originally 
known as the Collonade, at 509 West Madison Street, 
is an example of the type. The Mohawk, the most 



modern men*s hotel, is also the property of the 
Harvey-Dammarell system. 

The men who run these hotels do not claim to be 
philanthropists. Mr. Harvey has defined the situa- 
tion. He says: 

We are in the hotel business to make a living. We give the 
men the best service they can pay for. We give nothing away 
and we ask nothing. Consequently, we do not lay ourselves 
open to criticism. We insist on order and sobriety and we usu- 
ally get it. We hold that the men have a right to criticize us 
and come to us if they are not satisfied with the service we give. 
That is business. The man who pays seventy-five cents for a 
bed has a right to seventy-five cents' worth of service. If a man 
can only pay twenty-five cents for a bed he is entitled to all that 
he pays for and is entitled to kick if he doesn't get it. 

Different types of hotels attract different types of 
men. The better class of workingmen who patronize 
the Mohawk, where the prices range from forty to 
seventy cents, wear collars and creased trousers. 
The hotel provides stationery and desks. Hotels 
where the prices range from twenty-five cents to 
forty cents are patronized by a shabbier group of 
men. Few of them are shaven. Some of them read, 
but most of them sit alone with their thoughts. In 
some second-class places a man is employed to go the 
rounds and arouse the sleepers. 

In the twenty-five-cent hotels, the patrons not 
only are content to sit unshaven, but they are often 
dirty. Many of them have the faces of beaten men; 
many of them are cripples and old men. The excep- 
tions are the Popular and the Rufus F. Dawes, where 
the price is twenty cents or less to be sure, but the 
guests are more select. Since these places are 
semi-charitable, they can force certain requirements 
upon their patrons. 



The term "room" is a misnomer when applied to 
a sleeping apartment in a cheap hotel. These rooms 
have been aptly termed "cubicles/* and among the 
patrons they are known as "cages." A cubicle is 
usually from 6 to 8 feet in width and from 8 to 12 
feet in length. The thin walls, composed of steel or 
matched lumber, are usually about 8 feet in height. 
A wire netting over the top admits air and prevents 
the guests climbing from one cubicle to another. 
The furnishings are simple; sometimes only a bed, 
sometimes a bed and a chair, and in more expensive 
places a stand. They are not constructed either for 
comfort or convenience; lighting and ventilation are 
usually bad. But they are all they were intended to 
be: places for men to sleep with a limited degree of 

A canvass of the Hobohemian hotels has been made 
with a view to learning the approximate mobility of 
the hotel population. Few of these hotels are pre- 
pared to make any but general statements, though 
some of them have made an effort to get the facts. 
The consensus of opinion of hotel clerks is that the 
greatest turnover is in the cheapest hotels. Better- 
class places like the Acme, the Ironsides, and the 
Workingmen's Palace have a large proportion of 
permanent guests. The permanent guests, those 
who remain two or three months or more, range from 
a third to a half of the total number of roomers. 
Many of the older hotels have permanent patrons 
who are seasonal but regular. Others never leave 
the city. 

THE "flophouse" 

"Flophouses" are nearly all alike. Guests sleep 
on the floor or in bare, wooden bunks. The only 



privilege they buy is the privilege to lie down some- 
where in a warm room. 

2. "Hogan's Flop" is known from coast to coast among 
hobos. A tramp who has been in Chicago long enough to learn 
of Lynch's place, the Workingmen's Palace, Hinky Dink's, or to 
eat doughnuts in missions has heard of Hogan's. 

The first "Hogan's Flop" was located on South State Street. 
Later it moved to the West Side and for some time was on Merid- 
ian Street. Since it left Meridian Street it has been located in 
several places. The original Hogan, who was a Spanish- 
American War veteran, has passed to his reward. Only his name 
remains. Every winter, however, someone starts a "flop" and 
it invariably inherits the name and fame of Hogan. Hogan is 
now a myth, a sort of eponymous hero. A tramp discussing this 
matter said: "Hogan may be dead but the bugs that were in 
business with him are still on the job. They follow this joint 
wherever it goes. You know when they moved from Meridian 
Street it wasn't three days before the bugs got the new address 
and followed us." 

The following account is adapted from a descrip- 
tion of a night spent in "Hogan*s Flop": 

3. I spent the evening at the Bible Rescue Mission where 
sincere folks were pleading with men of the road to come forward 
and make things right with the Master. Two came forward 
and it was a time of rejoicing. They prayed and sang and fed 
us rolls and coffee, and to those who had no bed for the night they 
gave tickets to "Hogan's." They offered me a ticket but I 
thanked them and assured them that I still had a little money. 

You have to know where "Hogan's" is to find it. In the 
spring of 1922, it occupied the second and third floors of a build- 
ing at 16 South Desplaines Street. A narrow, shaky stairs, a 
squeaky door, a feebly lighted entrance, a night clerk who de- 
mands a dime and you are within. You may take your choice of 
sleeping on this floor or go on up to the third. There is no differ- 
ence in the price. I chose the second floor. It was less crowded. 
The fire, from a large heater in the center of the room, was 

The men around the stove had evidently been exposed to the 
elements. One was drying his shoes for it had rained all day. 



Another was drying his shirt. Two were engaged in listless con- 
versation. Others were silent. The air was stuffy, the light dim. 
I walked around the room looking for a place to lie down. Dozens 
of men were sleeping on the floor with their heads to the wall. 
Some were lying on paper, others on the bare floor. Some were 
partly covered by their overcoats; some had no overcoats. It 
is an art to curl up under an overcoat. One man of fifty years 
or more had removed his shirt and trousers and was using the 
latter for a pillow. He had tied his shoes to his trousers which is 
evidence that he knew "flop" house ethics. When men sleep in 
box cars they sometimes use their shoes for pillows but this is not 
necessary in "Hogan's." A planking around the walls aflFords 
a resting place for weary heads. 

A number of the faces here I had seen a great many times on 
the "stem." Two were old men in their seventies who had been 
in the city several years and were mendicants most of the time. 
There was a one-legged man whom I had seen chumming with 
another one-legged man on the streets. Both peddled lead 
pencils and shoestrings. On the only cot on the floor, two young 
fellows were lying. They were sleeping with their heads at 
opposite ends of the narrow bed and their bodies were entangled 
to prevent their falling off". 

I found a vacant place on the floor where I could have about 
two feet between myself and my nearest neighbor so I spread my 
papers and lay down. I had more paper than I needed so I gave 
half to another man who was just circling about for a place to go 
to bed. I asked the man nearest me if the bugs bothered much. 
He answered in the richest of Irish brogues that Hogan's bugs 
were sure efficient. Another man chimed in. He said they were 
better organized than the German army. How well organized 
they were I can't say but I was not long in learning that they 
were enterprising. 

Two men near me engaged in a discussion about the economic 
conference at Genoa. One man had very positive, orderly ideas 
of how things should go. The other interrupted occasionally 
only to agree. Someone wanted to know why he didn't hire a 
hall. Then there was silence, except for snores. I never heard 
such a variety of snores but none of them seemed to suggest 
peaceful slumbers or pleasant dreaming. Once the snores were 
broken into by some man bawHng out, "Hey, you; quit spittin' 
over this way; you're gettin' it on my paper." "Well, dammit; 



How much room do you want to take up ?" *His neighbor 

retorted, "It's none of your business how much room I take. 

You lay ofF'n that spittin', see." 

More snores. A man got up, stretched, rubbed his legs, came 
to the center of the room to the stove. More snores. Some 
men came in, paid their dimes and looked for an opening on the 
floor. A man ran to the toilet to vomit. A wag called to him 
to "heave it up." 

After an hour or so I felt something on my hand. I crushed 
it. There were others to be seen on the white papers. I lay 
down to try to sleep again. A second attack brought me 
suddenly to my feet. I lay down resolved a third time not to be 
disturbed. My companions seemed to be suffering more from 
the hard floor than anything else; and the floor was hard. I 
turned my thoughts to the hardness of the floor at "Hogan's." 

How long I dozed I can't say but I awoke marveUng at the 
endurance of the man of the road. While I pondered thus a 
man jumped to his feet and hastened out. He was cursing the 
bugs and saying that he knew an engine room that had this " place 
beat all hollow." I felt better. Someone else had weakened 
first. I got up and started home. It was two-thirty. 


Hobohemian restaurants serve meals for a half 
or a third of the prices current in the Loop. In some 
of these lunchrooms the charges are so low that one 
marvels. However, the food is coarse and poor and 
the service rough and ready. 

The homeless man is as casual in his eating as he 
is in his work. He usually gives all the restaurants 
a trial. If he has any money when meal time comes 
he generally does a little "window shopping." He 
meanders up and down the street reading the bills of 
fare in the windows. The Hobohemian restaurants 
know this and accordingly use window displays to 
attract the roaming patron. Food is placed in the 
windows, cooking is done within sight of the street, 
but the chief means of attraction are the menus 



chalked on the windows. The whole window is 
sometimes lettered up with special entrees of the day. 
Some of these bills of fare are interesting. 

Gus's place on South Halsted Street near the 
Academy Theater, July 28, 1922, displayed the 

Pig's Snouts and Cab- 
bage or Kraut 15c 

Corn Beef Hash loc 

Hamburger Roast. . . . loc 

Liver and Onions 15c 

Hungarian Goulash . . . 20c 
Pig's Shank and Cab- 
bage. 15c 

Spare Ribs and Cabbage 20c 

Pig's Feet and Potato 

Salad 15c 

Beef Stew and Kraut . . 15c 
Sausage and Mashed 

Potatoes 15c 

Roast Beef 20c 

Roast Pork 25c 

T-Bone Steak 30c 

The same day the James Restaurant on Madison 
Street near Desplaines advertised the following under 
the caption, "A Full Meal for Ten Cents 

Veal Loaf loc 

Sardines and Potato 

Salad IOC 

Hamburger and One 

Egg IOC 

Baked Beans loc 

Liver and Onions loc 

Corn Beef Plain loc 

Macaroni Italian loc 

Three Eggs any Style 15c 

Kidney Stew loc 

Sausage and Mashed 

Potatoes IOC 

Brown Hash and One 

Egg IOC 

Liver and Brown 

Gravy loc 

Salt Pork Plain loc 

Salmon and Potato 

Salad IOC 

Corn Flakes and Milk 5c 
Four Eggs any Style. . 20c 

One eating-house on West Madison Street is 
"The Home Restaurant, Meals Fifteen Cents and 
Up." This is a popular appeal. Restaurants fre- 
quently advertise "Home Cooking," "Home Made 
Bread," "Home Made Coffee," "Doughnuts Like 
Mother Used to Make." 




At meal time, especially at noon, scores of men 
flock into these eating-houses. The men, a noisy 
and turbulent crowd, call out their orders, which 
are shouted by the waiters to the cooks who set out 
without ceremony the desired dishes. Four or five 
waiters are able to attend to the wants of a hundred 
or more men during the course of an hour. The 
waiters work like madmen during the rush hours, 
speeding in with orders, out with dirty dishes. Dur- 
ing the course of this hour a waiter becomes literally 
plastered with splashes of coffee, gravy, and soup. 
The uncleanliness is revolting and the waiters are 
no less shocking than the cooks and dishwashers. In 
the kitchens uncleanliness reaches its limit. 

But what is the opinion of the patron ? They 
know that the hamburger is generally mixed with 
bread and potatoes, that the bread is usually stale, 
that the milk is frequently sour. There are few who 
do not abhor the odors of the cheap restaurant, but 
a steady patron reasons thus: "I don't allow myself 
to see things, and as long as the eyes don't see the 
heart grieves not." 


The hobo seldom dresses up. If he does it is 
evidence that he is making an effort to get out of his 
class. When he does buy clothing, either rough 
clothing or a good "front," he finds his way to places 
where new clothes are on sale at astonishingly low 
prices. The seasonal laborer's outfitters handle a 
very cheap grade of goods. Much of it is out of 
date and either shopworn or soiled. Cheap clothing 
stores are not peculiar to Hobohemia, but here they 
cater to the wants of the homeless man. 



Clothing exchanges, which is a polite term for 
second-hand clothing stores, are numerous in Hobo- 
hemia. There are many of them along North Clark 
Street and west of Clark on Chicago Avenue. These 
establishments make a specialty of buying slightly 
worn clothing, sample suits and overcoats from 
broken lots, which they sell at remarkably low prices. 

Second-hand clothing stores are not entirely 
monopolized by the hobo trade, but the veteran 
hobo knows of their existence and he knows how to 
drive a bargain. 

The cobbler who deals in shoes, both second-hand 
and new, as a sideline, gets his share of the Hobo- 
hemian trade. Coming off the road with a roll, the 
hobo is likely to invest in a whole outfit — shoes, suit, 
and overcoat — only to sell them again in a few days 
when he is broke. The second-hand dealer meets 
him both ways, coming and going. 


Pawn shops are not typical of Hobohemia. They 
are usually located in that region just outside the 
limits of the lodging-houses, a sort of border land 
between respectability and the down-and-outs. Not 
that the hobo is unwilling, when he is broke, to put 
anything valuable he happens to have in "hock," 
but usually he does not happen to have anything 
valuable. Still there are men who make a practice 
of carrying a watch or a ring upon which, in case of 
need, they can raise a few dollars. 

Pawn shops are, to a limited extent, clothing 
exchanges. They are places where the hobo does 
much of his buying and selling of tools, fire arms, 
leather goods, jewelry, and like articles of that sort. 




Commercialized entertainment has had difficulty 
in getting a foothold in Hobohemia. The movie has 
firmly established itself on the border land, where it 
may be patronized by both the transient and the 
resident population. The movies put the admission 
fee at ten cents. As a matter of fact, there is one on 
South Halsted Street which charges only a nickel. 
The pictures shown in these houses have usually 
passed from the first-class theaters through the vari- 
ous grades of cheaper houses until finally they arrive 
here much out of date, badly scarred, and so 
scratched that they irritate the eyes. 

Vaudeville and burlesque have become fully 
established on the South Side. Certain of these 
theaters cater to "men only." Advertisements of 
"classy girls," "bathing beauties," or "fancy danc- 
ing" have a strange attraction for the homeless and 
lonely men. 

Many men in the Hobohemian population do not 
patronize either the movie or the burlesque. Those 
who do are sometimes merely looking for an oppor- 
tunity to sit down in quiet for an hour. Some 
theaters, in recognition of this fact, extend an invita- 
tion to the audience to "Stay as Long as You Like." 
This draws a great many men, especially in cold 


Chicago has several barber colleges in close prox- 
imity to the "stem." Four of them are located on 
West Madison Street and most of them are so 
situated that they can attract men who are willing 
to submit to the inexperienced efforts of students. 



Students must have practice, and here are men, who 
as they themselves say, can stand it. 

The cheap rooming-houses do not always offer 
facilities for shaving, so they are willing to sacrifice 
themselves in the interest of education and art. If 
they are fortunate they may be served by a Senior, 
but they always are in danger of falling into the hands 
of a Freshman. Hair cuts cost ten or fifteen cents. 
This is governed by the law of supply and demand. 
The colleges must have patrons to keep the students 
busy. The lady barber flourishes in Hobohemia. 
The hobo, at least, seems to have no prejudice against 
a razor being wielded by feminine hands. 


Hobohemia has its bookstores where new and 
second-hand books are sold. The "Hobo Book- 
store," sometimes called the ''Proletariat," located 
at 1237 West Madison Street, is the best known. 
This place makes a specialty of periodicals of a 
radical nature which are extensively read by the 
"bos." A large line of books on many subjects are 
sold, but they are chiefly the paper-bound volumes 
that the transient can afford. The "Radical Book 
Shop," located on North Clark Street, is popular 
among the intellectuals who pass their time in Bug- 
house Square." 


The saloon still lives in Hobohemia, though with 
waning prestige. The five-cent schooner and the 
free lunch of pre-war days have passed, but the 
saloons are far from being dead. One can still get 
a "kick" out of stuff that is sold across the bar, but 



the crowds do not gather as before prohibition. 
Formerly, men who got drunk were kept inside, today 
they are hustled outside or at least kept out of sight. 
As the saloon has lost its prestige, the bootlegger has 
gained, and the "drunks" for which he is responsible 
parade the streets or litter the alleys. 

Fruit and soft drink stands and ice-cream cone 
peddlers are in evidence since prohibition. Enthu- 
siastic and persistent bootblacks swarm in the streets 
and Gypsy fortune-tellers who hail every passer-by 
for the privilege of "reading" his mind, and, perhaps, 
in order to turn a trick at his expense. 


Standards of living are low in Hobohemia. Flopsl 
are unwholesome and unsanitary. Efforts have been \ 
made to improve these conditions, but they have not 
been wholly successful. The Salvation Army and the 
Dawes hotels have improved the lodging-houses. But 
the municipal free lodging-house has been opposed by 
the police on the ground that it was already too pop- 
ular among casual and migratory workers. The same 
may be said of any other effort to deal with the 
problem from the point of view of philanthropy. 

The only other alternative would seem to be to 
encourage the migratory workers to organize to help 
themselves. This is difficult but not impossible, but 
the history of these efforts is another chapter in the 
story of Hobohemia. 



A MAN who is conservative can live in Hobo- 
hemia on a dollar a day. If he is not too 
fastidious he can live for sixty cents, including a bed 
every night. Sleeping in a ten-cent "flop" and stick- 
ing to coffee and rolls, he can get along for fifty 
cents. Old men who do not move around much will 
live a long time on "coffee-an'," which they can get 
at the average restaurant for a nickel. The man 
who is reduced to "coffee-anV' however, has touched 

An old beggar who lingers about the Olive Branch Mission 
on South Desplaines Street claims that if he were guaranteed 
forty cents a day he could get on nicely. This would give him 
a bed every night and, as he says, a good bed is sometimes better 
than a meal. 

The daily routine of this old man's life rarely takes him 
beyond the limits of a single block. On the south side of Madi- 
son Street, between 62 Desplaines Street and the Transedes 
Hotel, he is at home. All else is, for him, the open sea. When 
he ventures beyond the limits of this area into outlying territory 
he plans the trip the day before. 

There are perhaps a hundred old men on South State and 
West Madison streets whose interests and ambitions have shrunk 
to the same unvarying routine and the same narrow limits.^ 

Every man who enters Hobohemia is struggling to 
live above the "coffee-an'" level, and the various 
devices that are employed in accomplishing this are 
often ingenious. This business of wringing from 
chance source enough money each day to supply 
one's insistent wants is known on the "stem" as 
"getting by." "Getting by" may mean anything 
from putting in a few hours a day at the most casual 

^ See Document 18. 




labor to picking a pocket or purloining an overcoat. 
It includes working at odd jobs, peddling small 
articles, street faking, ''putting over" old and new 
forms of grafts, "working" the folks at home, 
white collar" begging, stealing, and ''jack rolling." 


In spite of all that has been said to the contrary, 
the hobo is a worker. He is not a steady worker but 
he earns most of the money he spends. There are 
migratory casual workers, who spend three or four 
months each year in a Chicago 4odging-house, who 
never look to the public for assistance. They know 
how much money they will need to tide them over 
the winter, and they have learned to spread it thin 
to make it reach. Casual in their work, they are 
conservative in their spending. 

There are others who are never able to save any- 
thing. No matter how much they bring to town 
they soon spend it. For these the odd job is the 
likeliest means of livelihood. In a city like Chicago 
there are almost always opportunities for men who 
are content to take small jobs. Every restaurant 
must have dishwashers and waiters. Every hotel 
needs porters; every saloon or pool hall employs men 
to do odd jobs. Petty as these jobs are and little as 
they pay, men not only take but seek them. One 
man who has been twenty years on West Madison 
Street is working as night clerk in a lodging-house; 
another does janitor work at nights and loafs day- 
time; still another has been for some time a potato 
peeler in a Madison Street restaurant. 

Men who spurn steady jobs in favor of petty ones 
with pay every night sometimes do so because they 



hate to leave the street. Often it is because they are 
not properly clad or have no money to pay their way. 


In the eyes of the law, peddling in Chicago, at 
least, is not begging.^ Nevertheless much of the 
peddling in the streets is merely legalized begging. 
Usually the articles offered for sale are cheap wares 
which are disposed of for whatever "you care to 
give.'* Not infrequently the buyer gives four times 
what the article is worth. There are hundreds of 
cripples in Chicago who gain a livelihood by selling 
pencils or shoestrings. Many of these are home- 
less men. Pencils bought for thirty-five cents a 
dozen retail for a dime, or whatever the purchaser 
cares to tax himself. A peddler's license is a protec- 
tion against the police and serves as a moral prop to 
the beggar. 

A peddler of shoestrings and pencils usually 
measures his success by the number of sales made 
in which no change is asked. He expects to be 
overpaid. Sometimes he persuades himself he is 
entitled to be overpaid. The business of "getting 
by'' by "touching hearts" is usually spoken of as 
"work." A peddler who works the North Side 
will say: "I didn't work yesterday; the day before 
I made three dollars and eighty-five cents." This 
man considers himself a real cripple, because he has 
locomotor ataxia. He is incensed when he meets a 
one-armed peddler, because a man with one arm is 
not a real cripple. Real cripples should have first 
consideration. An able-bodied man who begs when 

''The mayor's office issued about 6,000 free permits in 1922 to peddle 
from house to house (not from wagon or cart), from basket or other receptacle, 
only for a period of sixty days. 



broke is beneath contempt. That is "panhandling'' 
and an able-bodied "panhandler" is always con- 
sidered despicable. 

Many peddlers live in Hobohemian hotels, and 
spend their leisure on the "stem." When they go to 
"work" they take a car. Some of them have regular 
stands. Not infrequently a peddler will assume to 
monopolize a position in front of a church or near the 
entrance of a factory where girls go and come. Beg- 
gars have a liberal fund of knowledge about pay 
days. They know the factories where the workers, 
when they have money, are "good." 


The chief difference between peddling and street 
faking is one of method. The peddler appeals to 
the individual; the faker appeals to the crowd.' 
The faker is a salesman. He "pulls" a stunt or 5 
makes a speech to attract the crowd. The peddler 
is more than often a beggar. It requires consider- 
ably more initiative and force to play the role of a 
street faker than to peddle. 

Almost any time of the day at some street corner 
of the "stem" one may see a faker with a crowd 
around him. His wares consist perhaps of combina- 
tion sets of cuff buttons and collar buttons, or some 
other such "line." Success depends upon the nov- 
elty of the article offered. A new line of goods is 
much sought after and a good street faker changes his 
line from time to time. Many fakers are homeless 
men. Numbers of the citizens of Hobohemia have 
tried their hand at some time or other at this kind of 
salesmanship. Those who are able to "put it over" 
generally stay with the work. 



Peddling jewelry is one old device for getting 
money, but it is not too old to succeed. There are 
men who carry with them cheap rings or watches 
which they sell by approaching the prospective 
buyers individually. Sometimes they gather a crowd 
around them but that rarely succeeds as well as when 
they work quietly. A faker may sit beside a man in 
a park or approach him on the street and proffer a 
ring or watch or pair of eyeglasses for sale cheap, on 
the grounds that he is broke. Sometimes he will 
pretend that he found the article and would like to 
get a little money for it. Often he will tell of some 
sentiment connected with an article that he is trying 
to dispose of. A man may have a ring that his 
mother gave him and he will only part with it on con- 
dition that he might have the privilege of redeeming 
it later. If he thought he could not redeem it he 
would rather starve than part with it, etc. Hobos 
are often the victims as well as the perpetrators of 
these fakes. 


Few of these tricks are new but none of them are 
so old that they do not yield some return. They 
probably owe their long life to the proverbial identity 
of fundamental human nature wherever it is found. 

One of the most ancient and universal forms of 
deception is the fake disease. In Hobohemia a pre- 
tended affliction is called ''jiggers" or "bugs." 

4. L. J. appealed to the Jewish Charities with a letter signed 
\Jy a doctor in a hospital in Hot Springs saying that he had 
treated L. J. who was suffering from syphilis and that his eyes 
were affected and he would "undoubtedly go blind." It was 
learned later that this letter was a forgery as were other creden- 
tials that the man carried. He had been in a hospital and had 



been treated for a venereal disease. While there he familiarized 
himself enough with the terminology of the disease so that he 
could talk with some intelligence about his case. He would say 
with conviction, "I know I'm going blind before long." It 
further developed that he had been exploiting charity organiza- 
tions in several cities. Before his entry upon this deception it 
was learned that he had earned a prison record. 

An ancient ruse is to feign to be deaf and dumb! 
A man who played "deaf-and-dumb" worked restau- 
rants, drug stores, groceries, and other places of busi- 
ness. He would enter the places and stand with cap 
in hand. Never would he change the expression of 
his face, regardless of what was said or done. When 
spoken to he would point to his ears and mouth 
until he received some money, and then he would 
bow. If there was a chance of getting something, he 
would never leave a place unless he was in danger of 
being thrown out. An investigator followed him for 
two hours before he learned he was neither deaf nor 
dumb. Three months later he met the same man 
working the same graft in another part of the city. 

''The hat trick," as it is sometimes called, is a 
popular means of "getting by." On a Sunday, a 
holiday, or indeed any evening, the streets of Hobo- 
hemia are likely to be enlivened by men who have a 
message, haranguing the crowds. They may be 
selling papers or books on the proletarian movement. 
In any case, most of them terminate their speeches by 
passing the hat. Few speakers spend their eloquence 
on the audiences of Hobohemia without asking some- 
thing in return. It must not be assumed that these 
men are all insincere. Many of them are, but most 
of them are in the "game" for the money it yields. 
One of these orators is conspicuous because his stock 



in trade is a confession that he is not like the other 
speakers. He admits that he is out for bed and 
board. He will talk on any subject, will permit him- 
self to be laughed at, and jollied by the crowd, but 
when he passes the hat he usually gets enough for 
another day's board. 

The missions attract men who are religious pri- 
marily for profit. Many who are really sincere find 
it more profitable to be on the Lord's side. Nearly 
every mission has a . corps of men who perform the 
"hat trick" by going from house to house begging 
old clothes or cash or whatever the people care to 
give. The collector's conscience is the only check on 
the amount of money taken in. Some missions 
divide all cash collections with the solicitors. Some- 
times the collector gets as much as fifty cents on the 

The exploitation of children is as old as the history 
of vagrancy. Even the tramp has learned that on 
the road boys may be used to get money. A boy 
can beg better than an older man, and frequently 
men will chum with boys for the advantages such 
companionships give them. Boys who are new on 
the road are often willing to be exploited by a vet- 
eran in exchange for the things they can learn from 

"working the folks" 

There is a type of tramp who lives on his bad 
reputation. He may have been sent away for the 
sake of the family, or have fled for safety, or he may 
have gone voluntarily to start life anew. Seldom 
does he succeed, but family pride stands between 
him and his return. He capitalizes the fact that his 
family does not want him to return. 



Such a man resides on South State Street. He 
comes from a good family but his relatives do not 
care to have him about. He is fat and greasy and 
dirty; he seems to have no opinions of his own; is 
always getting into people's way and making himself 
disagreeable by his effort to be sociable. His rela- 
tives pay him four dollars a week to stay in Chicago. 
On that amount, with what he can earn, he is able 
to live.' 

Another man raises funds now and then when he 
is broke by writing or telegraphing that he is think- 
ing about returning home. His return means 
trouble. His requests for assistance are a kind 
of blackmail levied on the family.^ 

"white collar" begging 

Most interesting among the beggars is the man, 
the well-dressed and able-bodied individual, who begs 
on the strength of his affiliations. These are the men 
who make a specialty of exploiting their membership 
in fraternal organizations. Labor unions are very 
much imposed upon by men who carry paid-up cards 
but who are temporarily "down." The organiza- 
tions as such are not appealed to as much as individ- 
ual members. It is hard for a union man who is 
working to turn away a brother who shows that he 
is in good standing with the organization. 

Of late the "ex-service-man" story has been a 
good means of getting consideration, and the Ameri- 
can Legion buttons have been worked to the limit. 
Most of the men who wear parts of a uniform or 
other insignia indicative of military service have 

'Unpublished Document iii. 
2 Unpublished Document 112. 



really seen service and many have seen action, but a 
great many of them have heard more than they have 

There are men who make a specialty of "working" 
the charity organizations. Some of them are so 
adept that they know beforehand what they will be 
asked and have a stereotyped response for every 
stereotyped question. These men know a surprising 
amount about the inside workings of the charitable 
agencies and they generously hand on their informa- 
tion to their successor. They usually know, for 
example, what material aid may be had from each 
organization. A typical case is that of Brown. 

5. Brown had not been in Chicago an hour until he had 
located the chief organizations to which he might go for help. He 
knew that he could check his bag at the Y.M.C.A. He learned 
where to go for a bath, where to get clean clothes, how to get a 
shave and haircut and he actually succeeded in getting some 
money from the United Charities. He was able to "flop" in a 
bed even though he came to town without money late in the 
afternoon; whereas many other men in the same position would 
have been forced to "carry the banner." He knew about the 
charity organizations in all the cities he had visited from the 
Atlantic to the Pacific. After his case was traced it was learned 
that he told about the same story wherever he went and that he 
was known in organizations in all the cities to which he referred. 
He is 27 years old and has been living for the most part in institu- 
tions or at the expense of organizations since he was 13. 

6. Another case is that of P. S., a Jewish boy who made his 
way between New York and Chicago three times and received 
accommodation at the Jewish charity associations in nearly every 
big city on his road between here and New York. He is a 
mental case and goes to the Charities because of a sense of help- 
lessness. Since the last contact with him that the Chicago 
Jewish charities have had he has learned to get over the country 
with a little more confidence but he never fails to hunt up the 
welfare^' organization^as^soon as he comes to town. He was last 
heard of in California. 




Nearly every homeless man "goes broke" at 
times. Some of them do not feel that a trip to town 
has been a success if they return to the job with 
money in their pockets. On the other hand, they do 
not feel that they have had their money's worth 
unless they remain in town a week or two after they 
have "blown in.*' As they linger they face the 
problem of living. They may have friends but that is 
unusual. The homeless man used to get advances 
from the saloon keeper with whom he spent his 
money. Such loans were often faithfully made good, 
but they were just as often "beat." Prohibition has 
put an end to that kind of philanthropy. 

Many of the men who visit the city intermittently 
loaf and work by turns. These men often beg but 
they do not remain at it long, perhaps a day or so, or 
until disgust seizes them. Often when they beg they 
are drunk or "rum-dum." As soon as they are sober 
they quit. Sometimes they succeed in attaching 
themselves to a friend who has just arrived with a 
"roll." But living at the expense of another 
migrant quickly palls. Soon they will be found 
scanning the "boards" for free shipment to another 
job. They disappear from the streets for a season. 
As soon as they get a "stake," however, they will be 
seen again treating the boys and swapping stories 
on the "main stem"; if not in Chicago, then in 
some other city. It is the life. 

The more interesting types are those who live 
continuously in the city and are broke most of the 
time. Some of them have reduced the problem of 
"getting by" to an art. The tramp who only 
occasionally goes "broke" may try to imitate these 



types but he soon tires of the game and goes to work. 
The chief classes of beggars are the "panhandlers" 
and the "moochers." 

The "panhandler" can sometimes extract from 
the pockets of others what amounts to large sums of 
money. Some "panhandlers" are able to beg from 
ten to twenty dollars a day. The "panhandler" is 
a beggar who knows how to beg without loss of 
dignity. He is not docile and fawning. He appeals 
in a frank, open manner and usually "comes away 
with the goods." The "moocher" begs for nickels 
and dimes. He is an amateur. He goes to the back 
door of a house or hotel and asks for a sandwich. 
His appeal is to pity. 

The antagonisms between beggars and peddlers are 
very keen. The man who carries a permit to peddle 
has no respect for the individual who merely begs. 
Nevertheless, some peddlers, when business is slov/, 
themselves turn beggars. On the other hand, the 
man who begs professes to consider himself far more 
respectable than the peddler who uses his license as 
an excuse to get money. This is the language and 
opinion of a professional: "Good begging is far more 
honorable than bad peddling and most of this shoe- 
string and lead pencil peddling is bad. I am not 
going to beat around the bush. I am not going to do 
any of this petty grafting to get enough to live on."' 
These antagonisms are evidence of a struggle for 
status. When a peddler denounces the beggars he 
is trying to justify himself. His philosophy, like 
most philosophies, is an attempt to justify his voca- 
tion. The same is true of plain beggars. Most of 
them are able to justify their means of "getting by." 

1 Unpublished Document 113. 




Hobos are not clever enough to be first-class 
crooks nor daring enough to be classed as criminals. 
Yet most of them will steal something to eat. There v 
are men who are peculiarly expert at stealing food 
from back-door steps — pies or cakes that have been 
set out to cool, for example. There are men who 
wander about the residential areas, in order to steal 
from back doors. Some men follow the milkman as 
he goes from door to door delivering milk and 
cream, in order to steal a bottle when the opportunity 
offers. A quart of milk makes an excellent break- 

Stealing becomes serious when men break into 
stores and box cars. It is not what they take but 
what they spoil that does the damage. This is the 
chief complaint of the railroad against the tramp. 
In the country the tramp is often destructive to the 
orchards he visits. He will shake down more fruit 
than he can possibly use and dig up a dozen hills of 
potatoes to get enough for a "mulligan.'* 

"jack rolling" 

"Jack rolling" may be anything from picking a 
man's pocket in a crowd to robbing him while he is 
drunk or asleep. On every "stem" there are a 
goodly number of men who occasionally or continu- 
ally "roll" their fellow-tramps. Nearly every mi- 
grant who makes periodical trips to the city after 
having saved his earnings for three or four months 
can tell of at least one encounter with the *'jack 
roller." Scarcely a day goes by on Madison Street 
but some man is relieved of a "stake" by some 



*'jack" who will, perhaps, come around later and 
join in denouncing men who will rob a workingman. 

The average hobo is often indiscreet with his 
money, and especially so when he is drunk. He 
often displays it, even scatters it at times. This is a 
great temptation to men who have been living "close 
to their bellies" for months. As unpopular as the 
"jack roller" is among the tramps there are few who 
would overlook an opportunity to take a few dollars 
from a "drunk," seeing that he was in possession of 
money that someone else was bound to take sooner 
or later. 

7. An investigator became acquainted with two men who 
were jack rollers who operated on Madison Street west of Halsted. 
They were well dressed for the "street" though not so well 
groomed as to be conspicuous. The investigator pretended to 
them that he had just spent ninety days in the jail in Salt Lake 
City for "rolling" a drunk. They had no sympathy for a man 
who would get drunk and wallow in the gutter. "He's not 
entitled to have any money." Neither of these men drank but 
they "chased women" and one of them played the races. Neither 
had any scruples against taking money from a drunken or 
sleeping man. They were able to justify themselves as easily 
as the peddlers and beggars do. Said one of them, " Everybody 
is eating on everybody he can get at, and they don't care where 
they bite. Believe me, as long as I can play safe I'm going to 
get mine." 

"getting by" in winter 

During the cold winter months the problem of 
"getting by" becomes serious. In the spring, sum- 
mer, and fall hobos can sleep in the parks, in vacant 
houses, on the docks, in box cars, or in any other 
place where they may curl up and pass a few hours 
in slumber without fear of disturbance. But find- 
ing "flops" in winter usually engages the best effort 
a "bo" can muster. Besides food and shelter, the 



hobo must manage in some way to secure winter 
clothing. Above all he needs shelter, and shelter 
for the man without money is not easy to find in the 

The best scouting qualities the average man can 
command are needed to get along in winter. There 
are many places to sleep and loaf during the day, but 
the good places are invariably crowded. For sleep- 
ing quarters police stations, railroad depots, door- 
ways, mission floors, and even poolrooms are pressed 
into service. It is not uncommon for men who can- 
not find a warm place to sleep to walk the streets 
all night. This practice of walking the streets all 
night, snatching a wink of sleep here and a little rest 
there, is termed, in the parlance of the road, ''carry- 
ing the banner." He who "carries the banner'* , 
during the night usually tries to snatch a bit of sleep ' 
during the day in places he does not have access to 
in the night time. He may go into the missions, 
but in cold weather the missions are crowded. 
They are crowded with men who sit for hours in a 
stupor between sleeping and waking. In almost 
every mission on the "stem" there are attendants 
known as "bouncers," whose duties during the 
meetings are to shake and harass men who have lost 
themselves in slumber. 

Lodging-houses are also imposed upon by men 
who have no money to pay for a bed but who loaf 
in the lobbies during the day. Most lodging-houses 
make an effort to keep men out who are not guests. 
Fear is instilled into their hearts by occasionally 
calling the police to clear the lobbies of loafers. All 
who dare spend their leisure time in the public library, 
but the average tramp, unkempt and unclean from a 



night on the street, cannot muster sufficient courage 
to enter a public library. 

The missions and other charity organizations play 
an important part in supplying the cold-weather 
wants of the tramp. They usually make it a point 
to get on hand at the beginning of winter a large 
supply of overcoats, or "bennies/' and other clothes 
that are either sold at moderate prices or are given 
away. Such clothes are usually solicited from the 
public, and the men on the "stem'* believe that they 
are entitled to them. Hence each man makes an 
effort to get what he feels is coming to him. When 
winter comes they begin to bestir themselves and 
concoct schemes for securing the desired amount of 
clothing to keep out the cold. During the winter 
time many of these men will submit to being "con- 
verted" in order to get food and shelter. 

Competition between homeless men in winter is 
keen. Food is scarce, jobs are less plentiful, people 
are less generous, and there are more men begging. 
Many of the short-job men become beggars and a 
large number of those who are able to peddle during 
the summer likewise enter the ranks of the beggars. 
As beggars multiply, the housewife is less generous 
with the man at the back door, the man on the street 
also hardens his heart, and the police are called on for 

8. "Fat" is a very efficient "panhandler." He does not 
always "panhandle" but works when the opportunities present 
and the weather permits. He gets his money from men on the 
street, but he does most of his begging in winter when he cannot 
get the courage to leave town. He can beg for three or four 
hours and obtain about three dollars in that time. He only 
"panhandles" when his money is gone. He has a good person- 
ality and appeals for help in a frank, open manner giving no hard- 



luck story. He says that he is a workingman temporarily down 
and that he is trying to get some money to leave town. He 
does not work the same street every day. He keeps sober. 

He has no moral scruples against begging, nor against work. 
He works and works well when circumstances force him to it. 
He doesn't feel mean when out begging or "stemming." He 
looks upon it as a legitimate business and better than stealing, 
and so long as the situation is such he might as well make the 
best of it. He seldom "panhandles" in summer. 

He has an interesting philosophy. He calculates that accord- 
ing to the law of averages out of each hundred persons he begs, 
a certain number will turn him down, a certain number will 
"bawl him out," a certain number will give him advice, and a 
certain number will give him something, and his earnings will 
average about three dollars. So he goes at the job with vigor 
each time in order to get it over as soon as possible. "You get 
to expect about so much police interference and so much opposi- 
tion from the people, and you get more of this in winter than in 
summer, but that is the case in whatever line you go into." 

"Fat" works and begs as the notion strikes him but he does 
less begging in summer and less work in winter. If he doesn't 
hke one city he goes to another. Last winter (1921-22) he was 
in Chicago, not because he likes Chicago but because he hap- 
pened to be here. 


Getting by'' is a game not without its elements 
of fascination. The man who "panhandles" is 
getting a compensation that is not wholly measured ^ 
by the nickels and dimes he accumulates. Even the/ 
peddler of shoestrings likes to think of "good days" 
when he is able to surpass himself. It matters not 
by what means "the down-and-out" gets his living; 
he manages to find a certain satisfaction in the game. 
The necessity of "putting it over" has its own 

No group in Hobohemia is wholly without status. 
In every group there are classes. In jail grand 



larceny is a distinction as against petit larceny. In 
Hobohemia men are judged by the methods they use 
to **get by/' Begging, faking, and the various other 
devices for gaining a livelihood serve to classify these 
men among themselves. It matters not where a 
man belongs, somewhere he has a place and that 
place defines him to himself and to his group. No 
matter what means an individual employs to get a 
living he struggles to retain some shred of self-respect. 
Even the outcast from home and society places a high 
value upon his family name. 

9. S. R. is an Englishman fifteen years in this country. 
When he came to the United States to earn a "stake" he left his 
wife in England. His intention was to save enough money to 
send for her. He came here partly to overcome his love for 
alcohol but he found as much drink here and it was as accessible. 
He earned "big money" as a bricklayer but he never saved any. 
He became ashamed of himself after a year or two and ceased to 
write to his wife. That is, he had other interests here. 

Today he is a physical wreck. He is paralyzed on one side 
and he is also suffering from tuberculosis brought on by injudi- 
cious exposure and drink. He told his story but asked that his 
real name, which he told, should not be used. For, he said, " I am 
the only one who has ever disgraced that name." 

Several old men on West Madison Street are liv- 
ing on mere pittances but are too proud to go to the 
poorhouse. They much prefer to take their chances 
with other mendicants. They want to play the game 
to the end. As long as they are able to totter about 
the street and hold out their hands they feel that they 
are holding their own. To go to an institution 
would mean that they had given up. Dependent as 
they are and as pitiful as they look, they still have 
enough self-respect to resent the thought of complete 



In the game of "getting by" the homeless man is 
practically sure sooner or later to lose his economic 
independence. At any time (except perhaps in 
periods of prolonged unemployment), only a small 
proportion of homeless men are grafters, beggars, 
fakers, or petty criminals. Yet, all the time, the 
migratory casual workers are living from hand to 
mouth, always perilously near the margin of depend- 
ence. Consequently, few homeless men have not 
been temporary dependents, and great numbers of 
them must in time become permanent dependents. 

This process of personal degradation of the migra- 
tory casual worker from economic independence to 
pauperism is only an aspect of the play of economic 
forces in modern industrial society. Seasonal indus- 
tries, business cycles, alternate periods of employ- 
ment and of unemployment, the casualization of 
industry, have created this great industrial reserve 
army of homeless, foot-loose men which concentrates 
in periods of slack employment, as winter, in strategic 
centers of transportation, our largest cities. They 
must live; the majority of them are indispensable in 
the present competitive organization of industry; 
agencies and persons moved by religious and philan- 
thropic impulses will continue to alleviate their 
condition; and yet their concentration in increasing 
numbers in winter in certain areas of our large cities 
cannot be regarded otherwise than as a menace. The 
policy of allowing the migratory casual laborer to 
"get by" is, however, easier and cheaper at the 
moment, even if the prevention of the economic 
deterioration and personal degradation of the home- 
less men would, in the long run, make for social 
efficiency and national economy. 





WHY are there tramps and hobos? What are 
the conditions and motives that make migra- 
tory workers, vagrants, homeless men ? Attempts 
to answer these questions have invariably raised other 
questions even more difficult to answer. Homeless 
men themselves are not always agreed in regard to 
the matter. The younger men put the blame upon 
circumstance and external conditions. The older 
men, who know life better, are humbler. They are 
disposed to go to the other extreme and put all the 
blame on themselves. 

lo. "My old man tried his d — dest to get me to go to school; 
but no, I couldn't learn anything in school. I could make my 
own way. I could get along without the old man or his advice. 
Well, when I woke up I was forty years old, of course it was too 
late. I couldn't go back. That's what's the matter with half 
of these d — d kids on the road. No one can tell them anything. 
They're burning up to learn something on their own hook; and 
they'll learn it, too." 

From the records and observations of a great 
many men the reasons why men leave home seem to 
fall under several heads: {a) seasonal work and 
unemployment, {b) industrial inadequacy, {c) defects 
of personality, {d) crises in the life of the person, 
{e) racial or national discrimination, and (/) wander- 


Chief among the economic causes why men leave 
home are (i) seasonal occupations, (2) local changes 
in industry, (3) seasonal fluctuations in the demand 
for labor, and (4) periods of unemployment. The 




cases of homeless men studied in Chicago show how 
these conditions of work tend to require and to create 
the migratory worker. 

1) The industrial attractions of seasonal work 
often make a powerful appeal to the foot-loose man 
and boy. A new railroad that is building, a mining 
camp just opening up, an oil boom widely advertised, 
a bumper crop to be harvested in Kansas or the 
Dakotas fire the imagination and bring thousands of 
recruits each year into the army of seasonal and 
migratory workers. 

II. Fifty-eight years old and born in Belgium. He came to 
this country with his parents in 1882. His family moved to a farm 
in northern Wisconsin where they remained several years. The 
boy worked during his spare time in the woods. His father soon 
became tired of farming and decided he could do better in the coal 
camps of southern IlHnois, for he had been a miner in Belgium. 
After the family moved, the boy grew restless in the mining town 
and decided to return to his old home town in Wisconsin where 
he could get a job in the woods which was more to his liking. For 
several years he divided his time between the northern woods in 
winter and the mines at his Illinois home in summer. But he 
never liked coal mining and later began to go to the harvest 
fields for his summer employment. Sometimes he worked on 
railroad construction or at other seasonal work. He has spent 
several winters in Chicago, and usually (he says) he has been 
able to pay his way. However this year, 1921-22, he has been 
eating some at the missions. 

This case shows the steps by which a stationary 
seasonal worker becomes a migratory worker. It 
indicates how easily and naturally the migrant may 
sink still lower in the economic scale until he spends 
his winters in Hobohemia feeding at the missions." 

2) Local changes in industry dislocate the routine 
of work of the wage-earner. The timber in certain 
regions gives out, mines close down when the ore is 



exhausted or when prices drop, or in the reorganiza- 
tion of an industry a branch factory may be aban- 
doned. Under these circumstances, certain workers 
are compelled to look elsewhere for employment. 
Those who are free to move naturally migrate. The 
following case is that of a migratory worker who 
with the passing of the West finds it difficult to make 
the necessary adjustment. 

12. A. is the pioneer type of hobo. He came to Chicago 
because he was pressed eastward by the closing down of the mines 
in the West. He is about fifty years old. He was born in south- 
ern Illinois but grew restless on the farm. He left home in his 
teens to drive a team on the railroad grades. He moved West 
with the railroad building. He got into the mining game at 
Cripple Creek, and then turned prospector. He spent a couple 
of years in the mines of Alaska. He has never been able to 
attach himself to an old established camp. He has worked in 
the mines of northern Michigan but did not like it there. He 
regrets that he came East. He says that he was never so hope- 
lessly down in the West. He plans to go back where he knows 
people and where he can go out and get some kind of a job when 
he feels like going to work. 

This man always carried a bundle in the West. He laments 
that he found it necessary to throw his bed away when he came 
East. He claims that a man with a bed and a desire to work can 
get along better in the West than he has seen anyone get along 
here. Out there he only went to town four or five times a year. 
The rest of the time he was out in the hills. Out there he could 
always find work (until this recent industrial depression), but 
here he has not seen any jobs he cares for. 

3) Seasonal fluctuations in the demand for labor 
accompanied by the seasonal rise and fall in wages 
have greatly affected the ebb and flow of workers. 

Industrial fluctuations may be classed as cyclical and sea- 
sonal. Cyclical fluctuations result from business depressions and 
at times double the amount of loss of time during a year, which is 
illustrated by the fact that the railroads employed 236,000 fewer 



men in 1908 than in 1907. Seasonal fluctuations may either be 
inappreciable, as in municipal utiHties, or may displace nearly 
the entire labor force. The seasonal fluctuations in the canning 
industry in California, for example, involve nearly nine-tenths 
of all the workers; in logging camps, which depend upon the 
snow, operations are practically suspended in summer; while in 
the brick and tile industry only 36.5 per cent of the total number 
of employees are retained during the dull season. Irregularities 
in the conduct of industry and in the method of employing labor 
are evident in dock work, in the unskilled work in iron and steel, 
and in slaughtering and meat packing; in the competitive condi- 
tions in industries which force employers to cut labor cost down 
to the utmost and to close down in order to save operating 
expenses; in speculative practices which result in the piling up 
of orders and alternate periods of rush production and inactivity; 
in loss of time due to inefficient management within plants. In 
some cases it has been charged, although without definite proof, 
that irregularity of employment is due to a deliberate policy of 
employers in order to lessen the chance of organized movement, 
as well as to keep the level of wages down in unskilled occupations 
by continually hiring new individuals.^ 

4) Periods of unemployment throw hundreds of 
thousands of men out of work. But the effects of 
unemployment are not ended with the passing of the 
period of business depression. The majority of men, 
it is true, return to work with their economic effi- 
ciency little if any impaired by the stress and strain 
of uncertainty and deprivation. But upon thou- 
sands of men the enforced period of idleness has had 
a disorganizing effect.^ The demoralizing effect of 
being out of work is particularly marked upon the 
unskilled laborer. His regular routine of work has 
been interrupted; habits of loafing are easily acquired. 

^ Final Report of the Commission on Industrial Relations (191 5), pp. 163-64. 

' B. Seebohm Rountree, Unemployment; A Social Study. London, 191 1. 
See especially chap. "Detailed Descriptions of Selected Families," where 
the demoralizing effects of unemployment upon the laborer are clearly indicated. 



The path of personal degradation may lead to the 
"bread line" at the mission, and from there to pan- 
handling in the Loop. 

An increasingly large number of laborers go downward 
instead of upward. Young men, full of ambition and high hopes 
for the future start their life as workers, but meeting failure after 
failure in establishing themselves in some trade or calling, their 
ambitions and hopes go to pieces, and they gradually sink into 
the ranks of migratory and casual workers. Continuing their 
existence in these ranks they begin to lose self-respect and become 
"hobos." Afterwards, acquiring certain negative habits, as 
those of drinking, begging, and losing all self-control, self-respect, 
and desire to work, they become "down-and-outs" — tramps, 
bums, vagabonds, gamblers, pickpockets, yeggmen, and other 
petty criminals — in short, public parasites, the number of whom 
seems to be growing faster than the general population.^ 


Every year thousands of men fail in the struggle 
for existence. For one reason or another, they can- 
not, or at least they do not, keep the pace set by 
modern large-scale industry. These men are "mis- 
fits,** industrially inadequate. 

The majority of individuals, commonly regarded 
as industrially inadequate, are probably feeble- 
minded or restless types like the emotionally unstable 
and the egocentric and fall into the group of defective 
personalities to be considered later. Other causes of 
industrial incompetency are (i) physical handicaps 
due to accidents, sickness, or occupational diseases; 
(2) alcoholism and drug addiction; and (3) old age. 

i) The workers in certain industries are exposed 
to dangerous dusts and gases. The printers have 
learned the risks of their trade and endeavor to cope 
with them. Other industries have taken steps to 

* Final Report of the Commission on Industrial Relations (191 5), p. 157. 



eliminate industrial hazards. Many transients are 
miners who go from one job to another exposing 
themselves to different dangers. 

13. O. O. is fifty-three years old and he has been a migrant 
for many years. He has been a lumber-jack and a harvest hand. 
He has tried his hand at various casual jobs but most of his time 
has been spent in the mines. He used to work in the most 
dangerous mines because they generally pay the most money. 
Three years ago (about 191 9) while working in the copper mines 
in Butte, Montana, he contracted miner's "con," which is some 
sort of lung trouble. He had no place to go, could not hold a 
job, and has wandered about the country ever since. He has no 
hope of regaining his health and is too proud to return to his 
people who live in Ohio. 

Other industries also have their victims. 

14. G. T. came from the New England states. He was 
wandering about the country in hope of regaining his health. 
He was a textile worker and claims that the dyes and dust were 
the cause of his condition. There was no means at hand of prov- 
ing his story but the fact that he was in ill health, very much 
underweight, and he was not able to do heavy work. Numerous 
times he was rebuked because he asked for light work. 

Many men in Hobohemia have limbs or parts of 
limbs missing, or bent and twisted bodies. These 
are victims of industrial or non-industrial accidents. 

15. Red begs and sometimes peddles pencils along Halsted 
Street. He lost his leg several years ago while working in the 
coal mines. In his sober moments he claims that his own care- 
lessness was partly to blame for his loss, but he also holds that 
the company was negligent. His leg at first had only been 
bruised and he went back to work in a damp, cold place, and 
inflammation set in. He has since become accommodated to a 
life of begging and peddling. 

2) Alcoholism decreases the economic efficiency 
of the worker and so tends to depress him into the 
group of homeless men. Before prohibition the 



saloon had no better patron than the homeless man. 
In Chicago today bootleggers and blind pigs in the 
vicinity of the "stem" thrive upon the homeless 
man's love for liquor. 

1 6. E. J. loafs on West Madison Street and South State 
Street. He drinks and does not care who knows it. He has 
been a drinking man for years. "Booze put me on the bum. 
Now, I'm here and I'm too old to be good for anything, so why 
not keep it up ? You're goin* t' die when your time comes any- 
way; so why not keep it up ?" His philosophy helps him to 
live and he lives as well as he can by begging a little, working when 
any jobs come his way. He used to be a carpenter but has lost 
his efficiency at that trade. He threw up his membership in 
the union several years ago. 

Drinking is responsible for keeping many men on 
the road. One man said that he left home because 
he had too many drinking friends. He has been on 
the road for several years but wherever he goes he 
finds other drinking friends. An old man refuses to 
live with his children in the country because he can- 
not get his "morning's morning" while with them. 
They have written him time and again but he does 
not answer. 

Drug addiction likewise decreases the industrial 
efficiency of its victims. Drug addicts among home- 
less men seldom are transient. Those who are 
transient are often cocaine users who are able to 
do without the drug for considerable periods of time. 
Not infrequently "coke heads" or "snow-birds" are 
found among the hobo workers. When on out-of- 
town jobs, they are prone to go to town occasionally 
to indulge in a cocaine spree much as a "booze- 
hoister" indulges in a liquor spree. When their 
money is gone they return to work and do not touch 
the "snow " for weeks or months. Users of heroin or 



morphine are not able to separate themselves from 
the source of supply for so long a time. 

Because of the secret nature of the practice, the 
extent of drug addiction among homeless men is 
unknown. Men who use drugs are loath to disclose 
the fact to anyone but drug users. The drug addict 
employs every scheme to keep his practice a secret 
whereas the drinkipg man strives to share his joy 
with others. The fear of being discovered drives 
many addicts from the circle of their family and 
friends and many of them drift into the homeless 
man areas where they enjoy the maximum seclusion. 

17. The investigator was accosted by a beggar in the Loop, 
He was impressed by the fervor and the hurry with which the 
man begged him and was away. He followed the man for several 
blocks and watched him accost more than a hundred persons, 
all men. The only men from whom he failed to solicit were 
those accompanied by women. If two men were standing two 
or three yards apart he accosted each one individually. Only 
one or two men gave him anything. Most of them looked with 
suspicion at him, and not without reason, for although he was 
fairly well dressed he was very dirty and his clothes looked as if 
he had been sleeping out. He had a pallid, leaden complexion, 
and he had a ten days* growth of beard. He had a wild, hunted 
expression and impressed the investigator as being a drug addict. 
He continued to follow the man and engaged him in conversation. 
He learned that he had just beat his way from Boston. He had 
ridden passenger trains all the way and had come in less than 
three days. His only difficulty was in Buffalo where he says that 
a policeman pulled him off the train and beat him. Why he 
left Boston he would not say. He denied being a "dope" then 
and it was not till three days later when he was seen in Grant 
Park that he admitted the fact. He came to Chicago because 
he knew more people here and was certain of getting morphine. 

Drug users need as much as three or four dollars 
a day, and even more, to supply their wants. As a 
rule they are physically unfit to earn a living. They 



cannot live as the hobos do because the average hobo 
does not have money enough to buy drugs. They 
may be forced to Hve in cheap hotels and to eat in 
cheap restaurants but only to save money to satisfy 
the craving for ''dope." Drug addicts wander very 
little except to make rapid trips from city to city. 
The drug addict tends to become a criminal rather 
than a migratory worker. Their natural habitat is 
the great city. 

3) Many old men in the tramp class are not able to 
work and are too independent to go to the almshouse. 
Some of them have spent their lives on the road. 
These old, homeless men usually find their way to the 
larger cities. Unlike the younger men they have no 
dreams and no longer burn with the desire to travel. 
Many have been self-supporting until they were over- 
taken by senility. It is pitiable to see an old man 
tottering along the streets living a hand-to-mouth 

18. J. is an old man who lives in a cheap hotel on South 
Desplaines Street, where a few cents a day will house him. He is 
seventy-two, very bent and gray. Once he was picked up on 
the street in winter and sent to the hospital where he remained a 
day or two and was transferred to the poor house at Oak Forest. 
He ran away from the poor house two years ago and has managed 
to live. He seldom gets more than a block or two from his lodg- 
ing. Even today (1923) he may be seen on a cold day shivering 
without an overcoat on Madison Street. He is a good beggar 
and manages to get from fifty cents to a dollar a day from the 
"boys" on the "stem." Sometimes during the warm weather 
he makes excursions of three to five blocks away on begging tours. 
He is exceedingly feeble and walking that distance is hard work 
for him. Work is out of the question. There are very few 
jobs that he could manage. 

This case is typical. During the summer time, 
when it is possible to sit outdoors in comfort, num- 



bers of old men may be found in groups on the pave- 
ments or in the parks. In winter they are too much 
occupied seeking food and shelter. 

The physically handicapped and industrially ineffi- 
cient individuals are numerous among the homeless 
men. The handicap is, in part at least, the reason 
of their presence in that class. Competition with 
able-bodied workers forces them into the scrap heap. 


Psychological and sociological studies of vaga- 
bondage in France, Italy, and Germany have led to 
the conclusion that the vagabond is primarily a psy- 
chopathic type.^ The findings of European psycho- 
pathologists are, of course, the result of case-studies 
of beggars and wanderers in these countries and can- 
not without reservation be accepted for the United 
States. Undoubtedly there are large numbers of 
individuals with defects of personalities among 
American hobos and tramps, but there are also large 
numbers of normal individuals. The American tradi- 
tion of pioneering, wanderlust, seasonal employ- 
ment, attract into the group of wanderers and 
migratory workers a great many energetic and 
venturesome normal boys and young men. 

William Healy, for several years director of the 
Psychopathic Institute of Chicago, sums up the rela- 
tion of mental deficiency to vagabondage in these 
words : 

We have seen vagabondage in connection with feeble- 
mindedness, epilepsy, dementia precox, but we have also seen the 
same behavior in normal boys who had conceived a grudge, with 
or without good reasons, against home conditions. Again, we 

* See Bibliography, p. 287. 



have seen normal lads who have been seeking larger experiences 
in this way.^ 

Dr. Healy's observations were made primarily 
with juveniles, but he adds cautiously a conclusion 
as to the explanation of adult vagabondage: 

When vagabondage is continued beyond the unstable years 
of adolescence, generalizations on the character of the individuals 
are more likely to be correct. But even here the only chance of 
adequate conception of the relationship between the behavior 
and the type of individual who engages in it is to be found in a 
personal study of him. 

The proportion of feeble-minded is popularly sup- 
posed to be higher among the migratory and casual 
laborer than in the general population. In the 
earlier studies, only the most obvious cases of mental 
defect were noted. Mrs. Solenberger by common- 
sense observation or medical examinations found only 
eighty-nine of the one thousand men she examined to 
be feeble-minded, epileptic, or insane.^ 

In recent years mental tests have been given to 
small groups of unemployed men, in which the types 
of the hobo, tramp^ and bum were well represented. 
Knollin found 20 per cent of the 150 hobos he tested 
feeble-minded.^ Pintner and Toops examined two 
groups of applicants at Ohio free employment agencies 
by standardized tests other than the Stanford revi- 
sion of the Binet-Simon. Of the 94 men taking the 
tests at Columbus, 28.7 per cent were diagnosed as 
feeble-minded. Of the 40 unemployed men examined 
at Dayton 7.5 per cent were assigned to the feeble- 

^ The Individual Delinquenty pp. 776-79. 

^ One Thousand Homeless Men, pp. 88-89. 

3 L. M. Terman, The Measurement of Intelligence, p. 1 8. 



minded class.^ Glenn R. Johnson gave the Stan- 
ford revision of the Binet-Simon tests to 107 men 
out of work in Portland, and found 18 per cent 
feeble-minded, i.e., under twelve years mental age.^ 
As he had expected, he found the proportion of infe- 
rior intelligence lower than that of the 62 business 
men and high-school students upon which Terman 
had standardized his tests for adults, but he also 
found among hobos a higher percentage of superior 
adults. He found also that the higher the intelli- 
gence of the individual the shorter the period of 
holding a job among the unemployed. The testing 
of an unselected group of 653 men in the army by 
the Stanford revision of the Binet-Simon tests affords 
an interesting opportunity for a comparison with the 
results of the Portland study. 

This comparison would indicate that the intelli- 
gence of the unemployed is not lower, but, if any- 
thing, higher than that of the adult males tested in 
army camps. Apparently other factors than intelli- 
gence are decisive in determining whether an indi- 
vidual is employable or unemployable, or whether 
he makes or fails to make an adequate adjustment in 
the normal routine of industrial organization. 

The defects in personality commonly found in the 
cases of homeless men studied in Chicago are those 
noted by the students of vagabondage and unem- 
ployment, namely, feeble-mindedness, constitutional 
inferiority, emotional instability, and egocentricity. 
In a survey of 100 cases of unemployment which had 

^ Rudolph Pintner and H. A. Toops, "Mental Tests of Unemployed Men," 
Journal of Applied Psychology ^ I (1917), 325-4I; II (1918), 15-25. 

2 "Unemployment and Feeble-mindedness," Journal of Delinquency ^ II 
(1917). 59-73- 



been received as patients in the Boston Psychopathic 
Hospital, Dr. Herman M. Adler found that 43 fell 
into the class oi paranoid personality (egocentricity). 
The next largest group of 35 cases was assigned to 
the class of inadequate personality (mentally defective 

Mental Capacity of Army Group and of Port- 
land Unemployed as Measured by 

Mental Age 

Army Group 


653 Cases 

105 Cases 

Per Cent 

Per Cent 














10. 1 












II. 8 

18. 1 



II. 4 













or feeble-minded). The remaining cases, 11 in num- 
ber, were diagnosed as emotionally unstable person- 
ality. An analysis of the months employed per case 
showed that the emotionally unstable group aver- 
ages 50 months to each job; the inadequate group 
24.7 months to each job; and the paranoid group 
20.6 months to each job.^ 

Many individuals not feeble-minded find their 
way into the group of casual and migratory workers 

^Herman M. Adler, "Unemployment and Personality — A Study of Psy- 
chopathic Cases," Mental Hygiene^ I (January, 1917), 16-24. 



by reason of other defects of personality, for example, 
emotional instability and egocentricity. Among 
transient laborers the very great turnover cannot be 
entirely accounted for by industrial conditions. 
Much of their shifting from scene to scene is indica- 
tive of their emotional instability and restlessness. 

19. W. E. was born in a little village in Kentucky. His first 
job away from home was on the section. When he learned that 
it was the meanest job on the railroad he decided to change. He 
got a job on an extra-gang where he moved about considerably, 
worked in several towns during the summer. Later got a steady 
job on a farm but he soon tired of "eating at the same table day 
after day" and he went to Kansas City where he worked in a 
box factory. He became expert at it but soon tired of using 
the same tools, and working as fast as possible day after day, and 
he changed. He worked in several factories making boxes but 
there was no difference. Then with his meager experience with 
tools he got in the maintenance of way work of a railroad. Here 
he had some variety and remained a year. Decided he wanted 
to work in the mines and he got a job timbering. Later he tried 
his hand at millwright work but he soon quit that and went 
back to the bridge gang. He still goes to town every month or 
two to spend his money and each time he goes out to some 
different job. 

In hard times when work is scarce and wages are 
low, voluntary quitting of jobs is much less than in 
good times. Hobos are easily piqued and they will 
"walk off" the job on the slightest pretext, even when 
they have the best jobs and living conditions are 
relatively good. Hobo philosophy is disposed to . 
represent the man who is a long time on the job as a 
piker. He ought to leave a job once in a while simply 
to assert his independence and to learn something 
else about other jobs. The following case shows the 
relation of instabihty and egocentricity to labor ^ 



20. Yes, Pete had had plenty of good jobs, but something had 
always gone against him. At one place not long ago they wanted 
him to continue work in spite of the dust which was blowing 
everywhere. Another rude employer never spoke to him (or any 
other of the employees) politely. 

No one should work for a man like that. Upon another 
occasion the boss suggested reform of a certain habit — as if he 
had any right to tell an American citizen what he ought to do. 

He had worked at almost everything, but it went against 
his very nature to do one thing very long. He would, in two or 
three weeks, quit and look for a different occupation. Why he 
quit, I am sure he didn't know. "Independence," "Justice," 
and "American Equality" furnished the material for his excuses, 
but they were only excuses. 

A survey of the so-called "intellectuals" of Hobo- 
hemia reveals a group of egocentric and rebellious 
natures who decry most things that are. Intellec- 
tuals, just because they are highly organized and 
specialized, are very likely to become misfits outside 
of the environment to which they artificially are 
adapted. When, added to this handicap, they lack 
the discipline which a regular occupation affords they 
are likely to become quite impossible. 

21. H. has a great chart that he uses to preach evolution to 
the curb-stone audiences. He has learned a few scientific terms 
from one or two books he has read. He has no use for the modern 
scientists. He considers them heretic. He is a student of Dar- 
win "and those old timers." When pinned down he is not able 
to discuss clearly what contributions the old-timers made or 
what they believed. 

t/ 22. D. H. is a student of economics according to Karl Marx. 
He has no room in his thinking for any contribution of any other 
man. Indeed, he does not think that anyone has made any 
contribution since Marx. One of his stock phrases is "Now get 
this into your heads. I am making it simple so that you can 

Zderstand it." 
23. B. is writing a novel. He has been working on it for 
/eral years. He also writes songs, popular songs. But he has 



never sold a song nor has he ever been able to interest a publisher 
in his novel. He calls the publishers a lot of grafters and claims 
that they are in league to keep the poor writers down. 

24. L. is a soap-box orator. He has one hobby. He is a 
single-taxer. He is a great believer in Lincoln, Washington, 
Jefferson. To him there is only one problem, to find out who is 
exploiting the people, and there is only one remedy and that the 
single tax. He will entertain no argument against the single tax. 
Anyone who does not share his opinion is to be pitied. 

The intellectuals are frequently egocentric. They 
are obsessed by some peculiar point of view. As 
egocentrics they are in conflict with the rest of the 
world. Their cry is often a lament and just as often 
a justification or defense. 

>:i A study of individual cases seems to indicate that 
there is a large proportion of inadequate personalities 
among homeless men. The following cases indicate 
the variety of ways in which personal defects lead 
to a migratory existence which lands them eventu- 
ally at the bottom of the social scale. 

25. D. is a man who could not get along at home. He was 
continually into difficulty with his father. He always had ideas 
and schemes that his father thought foolish and he was never 
permitted to carry any of them out. He still has the habit of 
working up schemes and programs. One week he will be writing 
a play. Again he will be inventing some mechanical device. He 
has tried several different courses in mechanical engineering but 
has not completed any of them. 

26. F. has an idea that he can become a singer but he refuses 
to spend his time in the rigid and arduous training that would be 
required. He buys cheap books on voice culture. When he gets 
money enough ahead to take lessons he forgets his musical ambi- 
tion and drinks or gambles. 

27. L. was the "simple Simon" in his home town. During the 
war he was rejected for military service so he decided to go to 
the city to work. Here he earned fair money, more than at home. 
The people at home used to tease him but at first he got by fairly 



well in Minneapolis. Later he went to Detroit because the 
fellows where he worked in Minneapolis used "to run him." 
They used to tease him in Detroit and he left two jobs there on 
that account. He is the type of person that invites teasing. He 
puts himself in the way of it but resents it if it reaches a certain 
extent. With the slack season in industry in 1921-22 he had a 
hard time to get along but he would not return home. 

28. H. is a man who thinks that he is getting the worst of 
every deal he has with others. He says that at home he was 
imposed on by his people so he left. He is always on the lookout 
for plots directed against him. If he is working along with others 
on a job and a bad piece of work falls his way he concludes that 
it happened purposely. However, he is ready to gloat over 
favors. His best efforts are made to ingratiate himself with 
others. Whenever he leaves a place, he does so with bitterness 
in his heart. He usually keeps his grudge to himself. 

29. M. is a good worker but a transient. He behaves well 
when sober but he becomes quarrelsome when drunk. If he is 
not discharged because of a drunken scene he usually quits volun- 
tarily because he feels ashamed of himself. He argues a great 
deal when sober but he has the ability to control himself. His 
periods of drunkenness last from a week to ten days and are 
staged whenever his finances will permit. Not infrequently he is 
arrested while drunk. 


Crises in the life of the person, as family conflict, 
for example, the feeling of failure, disgrace or embar- 
rassment, the fear of punishment for the commission 
of an offense may cause a man to desert home and 
community. With the severance of family and social 
ties the man or boy is all the more likely to drift 
aimlessly from place to place, and at last perhaps 
find himself permanently in the group of migratory 
and casual laborers. 

Conflict at home forces many men and boys into 
the group of homeless men. Not infrequently boys 
run away from home because of difficulties with their 



people. One youth says that his father tried to tell 
him "where to head in at/' and he "wouldn't stand 
for it." Another boy could not get along with his 
brothers who were older than he. They tried to 
"boss" him. 

Many men in Hobohemia manifest no inclination 
to wander but are as completely cut off from their 
home associations as are the migrants. These men 
of the "home guard" types may have had trouble 
with their parents or with their wives. 

30. H. claims that he was married and that he held a job as 
traveHng salesman. He maintained an apartment on the South 
Side where he left his wife while he was away on trips through the 
Southwest. His story is that his wife was untrue to him and he 
divorced her. This experience "broke him up" so that he quit 
his job and went West where he remained a year. Today he 
loafs on West Madison Street and blames his wife for his failure 
in life. The divorced wife's story learned from other sources 
lays considerable of the responsibility at his feet. This much of 
his story is true: he was not in the tramp class before he married. 
The circumstances surrounding his home trouble were unfortu- 
nate and were partly due to the shortcomings of both. 

31. G. lays the blame for his condition upon family trouble. 
He has not lived with his wife for nine years. They are not 
divorced because he and his wife are both Catholic and do not 
believe in it. He worked most of the time before their separation 
and claims that he owned his own home which is now in the pos- 
session of his wife. What his wife is doing now he does not know 
nor does he know anything about their child. He is content 
where he is; doing just enough work to pay expenses. 

Deaths in a family will sometimes turn a person 
out into the world and he may drift into the hobo and 
tramp group. 

32. M.'s father died when he was about six years old. Five 
years later his mother died. Kindly neighbors took him in 
charge by turns. It seemed to him that wherever he was the 
people would parade the fact that they were taking "care of" 



someone else's child. It was charity. He stayed with several 
different families. Some of them he liked and others he didn't. 
Some sent him to school and others didn't seem to care what 
became of him. More than one family tried to pass him on to 
others on the ground that it was too much of an expense. When 
he began to be old enough to work then they all wanted him. 
He hated it all so he left the country. He came through Chicago 
on his way to Texas. (A sixteen-year-old boy and small for his 
age.) He said he had a brother in the cavalry who was stationed 
in Texas. The brother tried to persuade him to wait till he had 
saved enough money to pay his fare but he preferred to take his 
"chances," so he was "beating his way." 

Embarrassing situations often make it easier to 
leave home than to remain and face the criticism or 
sympathy of the public. On the road, a man is more 
or less immune to attacks upon his self-consciousness 
and self-respect, for his relations to other persons are 
loose and transient and he has no status to maintain. 
The opposite is true in his home town where his every 
act is known. 

33. One man who works in and near Chicago claims that he ^ 
was put on the "bum" by a woman. He was to have been married 

to this girl and prepared for the wedding in good faith. A few 
days before the ceremony she ran away with another man. He 
was laughed at by his friends and rather than remain and for a 
long time be the butt of the joke, he packed his things and has 
not been back since. His home is in a country town in southern 
Illinois, and although he has been near the place several times 
during the past ten years he has never returned. 

34. F. is another case of injured pride. For some boyish 
prank he had been sent to the reformatory for three years. Upon 
his release he was given transportation home and started in high 
glee. His people met him at the station and took him home. 
Although he was treated well he felt uncomfortable. "They 
treated me good because I happened to be a part of the family. 
I felt like I didn't belong there, so as soon as it got dark I skinned 
out. They write to me to come back and maybe I will after a 
while." He is an average man of the migratory worker type. 



He comes to Chicago when he has money and when he is " broke" 
he goes out on some job and is not seen for two or three months 
or until he has another stake. He gets arrested now and then 
but only on petty offenses that he commits while drunk. 

The following case shows that a sense of failure 
and fear of ridicule may force a boy to leave his home 

35. This lad was working in a grocery store at the age of 
twelve. He became dissatisfied with the job and asked for a raise 
which was denied. He was somewhat embarrassed at being set 
back and lest he be laughed at for staying on after making a 
demand he quit. Someone asked him what he would do since 
there was no other job to be had. This was really another 
challenge and he met it with the reply that Podunk was not the 
only place to work. He left home to make his bluff good. 

He met with many reverses. He was small and no one 
wanted to hire him. So he begged and he "managed." Some- 
times he did odd jobs, but he didn't go home. Other people had 
left home and come back beaten and had to take the "horse 
laugh" and he did not admire any of them. He couldn't think 
of going back unless he had more money than when he left and 
better clothes, so he went on. He learned to Hke the road and 
he traveled over the country for about two years before he went 
back. When he did return he was in a position to talk. He had 
some money to spend, he had seen the country. He had been 
East and West, and he had been to sea. He had something to 
talk about. But he only remained in his home town long enough 
to stir up admiration and envy and he was off again. He is still 
under twenty-one and is still traveling in response to the same 

Other individuals began their migratory career by 
fleeing from the consequences of some offense. If 
the offense is of such gravity that the consequences 
seem to outweigh the advantages of remaining in 
the community, then flight is the natural course. 

36. A. states that he left home to avoid the wrath of his 
father. He had been to town with the horse and buggy. On the 



way home the horse became excited, left the road, ran into a 
post, and broke the buggy. His father was absent for the day 
and he and his brothers tried to repair the buggy so that the 
parent would not suspect. It could not be fixed and they all 
knew what the consequences would be. The brothers helped him 
pack up and he ran away. He did not return for three years; 
then it was only to remain for a short time. 

37. Red left home because he feared the consequences of an 
affair with a woman. He claims that the woman had relations 
with another man and that he was not sure that the child would 
be his. The other man was a Mexican and Red says that he has 
heard since that the child is a dark-skinned little fellow and that 
eases his conscience. 

38. O. could not get along with his wife. They were divorced 
and he was ordered by the court to pay her thirty dollars a 
month. He paid it faithfully for a couple of months and then 
failed for a month or two. She had him arrested and he agreed 
to make good. As soon as he was released, he fled the country. 
He has been living in and about Chicago the past year. It has 
been two or three years since he left home. He has not com- 
municated with his home because he fears arrest. His alimony 
bill has mounted to terrifying proportions. He hopes that his 
wife is married again. 


In certain situations racial or national traits cause 
discrimination in employment and so result in a 
descent from regular to casual work. So far as selec- 
tion for employment is adverse to the Negroes they 
tend to recruit the ranks of homeless men. During 
the war, a much higher proportion of foreign-born of 
German origin was observed on West Madison Street 
than had previously been reported. Interviews with 
certain Russians on the "main stem" in the spring 
of 1922 suggest that the public disapproval of 
Bolshevism had reacted unfavorably on the chances 
for employment of this nationality in the United 




Wanderlust is a longing for new experience. It is 
the yearning to see new places, to feel the thrill of 
new sensations, to encounter new situations, and to 
know the freedom and the exhilaration of being a 

In its pure form the desire for new experience results in 
motion, change, danger, instabihty, social irresponsibility. It is 
to be seen in simple form in the prowling and meddling activities 
of the child, and the love of adventure and travel in the boy and 
man. It ranges in moral quality from the pursuit of game and 
the pursuit of pleasure to the pursuit of knowledge and the 
pursuit of ideals. It is found equally in the vagabond and the 
scientific explorer.^ 

Even those of us who seem to have settled down quite com- 
fortably to exacting routine are sometimes intolerably stirred by 
the wanderlust. It comes upon us unaware; and often we cut 
away and go. There are automobiles, railway cars, steamships, 
airplanes— serving little other purpose, really, than the gratifica- 
tion of wander tendencies. Usually we do not say it so openly of 
course; we make good reasons for travelling, for not "staying 
put." Many a business man has developed a perfect technique 
for escaping from his rut; many a laborer has invented a phys- 
ical inability to work steadily that lets him out into the drifting 
current when monotony sets in on the job. Life is full of these 
moral side doors; but we need not view man's rationalizing power 
cynically, merely understandingly. The escapes he contrives 
are a damaging critique of the modern mode of life. We may 
infer from them the superior adjustments we strive so blindly 

Wanderlust is a wish of the person. Its expres- 
sion in the form of tramping, "making" the harvest 
field, roughing it, pioneering, is a social pattern of 
American life. The fascination of the life of the 
road is, in part, disclosed in the following case-study. 

1 R. E. Park and H. A. Miller, Old World Traits Transplanted, p. 27. 

2 Rexford Tugwell, "The Gypsy Strain," Pacific Review, pp. 177-78. 



39. S. who is 19 years old has been a wanderer for nearly four 
years. He does not know why he travels except that he gets thrills 
out of it. He says that there is nothing that he likes better 
than to catch trains out of a town where the police are rather 
strict. When he can outwit the ** bulls" he gets a "kick" out 
of it. He would rather ride the passenger trains than the 
freights because he can "get there" quicker, and then, they are 
watched closer. He likes to tell of making "big jumps" on 
passenger trains as from the coast to Chicago in five days, or from 
Chicago to Kansas City or Omaha in one day. He only works 
long enough in one place to get a "grubstake," or enough money 
to live on for a few days. 

He says that he knows that he would be better off if he would 
settle down at some steady job. He has tried it a few times but 
the monotony of it made him so restless that he had to leave. 
He thinks that he might be able to stay in a city if he had a steady 
job and he agreed to take such a job if he could get it. Jobs were 
scarce and the investigator promised to take him to the United 
Charities to help him get placed. 

The following morning the lad came to the office with another 
boy with whom he had become acquainted that morning. He 
had changed his mind about that job but wanted to thank 
everyone who had taken an interest in him. He and his " buddy" 
were going to "make the Harvest." 

The longing to see the world is often stimulated 
in a boy by reason of the experiences of some relative 
or friend whom he admires. One boy went on the 
road because of the influence his uncle had upon him. 
The uncle did not advise him to leave home, in fact, 
he did not know very much about the boy. But the 
uncle had been to war, and had traveled in China, 
Alaska, and South America. The boy had to go on 
the road to become disillusioned. He now knows 
that his uncle is a plain tramp and that he himself has 
become a hobo. 

40. W. left home when he was sixteen. He was the oldest 
of a family of five boys and three girls. His father owned a farm 
in Michigan and was usually hard pressed for means. He 



needed help at home and so W. was kept out of school a great 
deal. When he did go to school it was hard for him to learn. 
When the father saw that the younger boys were passing W. in 
school he decided that it was time wasted to send W. to school. 
W. was big for his age and the father imposed more work on him 
than on the other boys who were smaller. W. felt that he was 
not getting a square deal so he ran away. 

He remained away a year before he dared to write. One 
reason he did not write sooner was because he was not earning 
much money, and the other reason was that he feared his father 
would hunt him down and force him to return. When he felt se- 
cure he wrote more frequently and most of his letters were boast- 
ful. He told of prospering and he moved from place to place 
often to show the other children at home that he could go and 
come as he pleased. He traveled in different parts of the country 
and from each part he would write painting his experiences in a 
rosy hue. 

He succeeded in stirring up unrest in the hearts of the other 
boys who left home one by one. In about two years N. followed 
W. L. soon began to feel that he too could make "his way" so 
he left. All five of the boys left home before they were sixteen. 
Each felt that he was wasting his time about home while the 
other boys were seeing the country and making good money. 
Only one of the five boys returned home. The others roamed 
the country following migratory work. One married but only 
lived with his wife a year and then deserted her. 

The father always blamed W. for leading the boys away. 
W. used to send presents to the other members of the family. 
He used to send the mother money now and then. He was the 
idol of the rest of the children and they left home to follow in 
his footsteps. 

A visit to the "jungles" at the junction of any 
railroad or at the outskirts of any large city or even 
small town reveals the extent to which the tramp is 
consciously and enthusiastically imitated. Around 
the camp fire watching the coffee pot boil or the 
mulligan" cook, the boys are often found mingling 
with the tramps and listening in on their stories of 



To boys the tramp is not a problem, but a human 
being, and an interesting one at that. He has no 
cares nor burdens to hold him down. All he is con- 
cerned with is to live and seek adventure, and in this 
he personifies the heroes in the stories the boys have 
read. Tramp life is an invitation to a career of 
varied experiences and adventures. All this is a 
promise and a challenge. A promise that all the 
wishes that disturb him shall be fulfilled and a 
challenge to leave the work-a-day world that he is 
bound to. 


No single cause can be found to explain how a man 
may be reduced to the status of a homeless, migra- 
tory, and casual laborer. In any given case all of 
the factors analyzed above may have entered into 
the process of economic and social degradation. 
Indeed, the conjunction of several of these causes is 
necessary to explain the extent and the nature of 
the casualization and mobility of labor in this, 
country. Unemployment and seasonal work disJ^ 
organize the routine of life of the individual worker 
and destroy regular habits of work but at the same 
time thousands of boys and men moved by wander- 
lust are eager to escape the monotony of stable and\ 
settled existence. No matter how perfect a social 
and economic order may yet be devised there will 
always remain certain "misfits," the industrially! 
inadequate, the unstable and egocentric, who will [ 
ever tend to conflict with constituted authority in ' 
industry, society, and government. 

The description, however, of these causes of 
vagabondage — (a) unemployment and seasonal work, 



{b) industrial inadequacy, {c) defects of personality, 
{d) crises in the life of the person, {e) racial or national 
discrimination, (/) wanderlust — is a necessary condi- 
tion to any solution of the problem of the homeless 
man. A program is remedial and not preventive 
that does not grapple with the fundamental causes 
here revealed. These causes have roots at the very 
core of our American life, in our industrial system, 
in education, cultural and vocational, in family rela- 
tions, in the problems of racial and immigrant adjust- 
ment, and in the opportunity offered or denied by 
society for the expression of the wishes of the person. 



THE term "homeless man" was used by Mrs. 
Alice W. Solenberger in her study of i,ooo cases 
in Chicago to include all types of unattached men, 
tramps, hobos, bums, and the other nameless varieties 
of the "go-abouts." 

Almost all "tramps" are "homeless men" but by no means 
are all homeless men tramps. The homeless man may be an 
able-bodied workman without a family; he may be a runaway 
boy, a consumptive temporarily stranded on his way to a health 
resort, an irresponsible, feeble-minded, or insane man, but unless 
he is also a professional wanderer he is not a "tramp."^ 

There is no better term at hand than "homeless 
men " by which the men who inhabit Hobohemia may 
be characterized. Dr. Ben L. Reitman, who has 
himself traveled as a tramp, in the sense in which he 
uses the word, has defined the three principal types 
of the hobo. He says: 

There are three types of the genus vagrant: the hobo, the 
tramp, and the bum. The hobo works and wanders, the tramp 
dreams and wanders and the bum drinks and wanders. 

St. John Tucker, formerly the president of the 
"Hobo College" in Chicago, gives the same classi- 
fication with a slightly different definition: 

A hobo is a migratory worker. A tramp is a migratory non- 
worker. A bum is a stationary non-worker. Upon the labor of 
the migratory worker all the basic industries depend. He goes 
forth from the crowded slavemarkets to hew the forests, build 
and repair the railroads, tunnel mountains and build ravines. 
His is the labor that harvests the wheat in the fall and cuts the 
ice in the winter. All of these are hobos. 

^ One Thousand Homeless Men, p. 209. 




M. Kuhn, of St. Louis (and elsewhere), a migrant, 
a writer, and, according to his own definition, a hobo, 
in a pamphlet entitled "The Hobo Problem" gives 
a fairly representative statement of the homeless 
man's explanation of his lot. 

The hobo is a seasonal, transient, migratory worker of 
either sex. Being a seasonal worker he is necessarily idle much 
of the time; being transient, he is necessarily homeless. He is 
detached from the soil and the fireside. By the nature of his 
work and not by his own will, he is precluded from establishing 
a home and rearing a family. Sex, poverty, habits and degree 
of skill have nothing whatever to do with classifying individuals 
as hobos; the character of his work does that. 

There are individuals not hobos who pose as such. They are 
enabled to do this for two reasons; first, hobos have no organiza- 
tion by which they can expose the impostor; second, the frauds 
are encouraged and made possible by organized and private 
charity. The hobo class, therefore, is unable to rid itself of this 
extremely undesirable element. With organization it can and 
will be done even if charity, which is strongly opposed by the 
hobo class, is not abolished. 

Nicholas Klein, president of the "Hobo College" 
and attorney and adviser to James Eads How, the 
so-called hobo millionaire, who finances the "Hobo 
College," says: 

A hobo is one who travels in search of work, the migratory 
worker who must go about to find employment. Workers of 
that sort pick our berries, fruit, hops, and help to harvest the 
crops on the western farms. They follow the seasons around 
giving their time to farms in spring, summer, and autumn, and 
ending up in the ice fields in winter. We could not get in our 
crops without them for the hobo is the boy who does the work. 
The name originated from the words "hoe-boy" plainly derived 
from work on the farm. A tramp is one who travels but does not 
work, and a bum is a man who stays in one place and does not 
work. Between these grades there is a great gulf of social dis- 
tinction. Don't get tramps and hobos mixed. They are quite 




different in many respects. The chief difference being that the 
hobo will work and the tramp will not, preferring to live on what 
he can pick up at back doors as he makes his way through the 

Roger Payne, A.B. and LL.B., who has taken 
upon himself the title "hobo philosopher/' sees only 
one type of the wanderer and that is the hobo. The 
hobo to him is a migratory worker. If he works but 
does not migrate, or if he migrates but does not work, 
he is not a hobo. All others are either tramps or 
bums. He makes no distinction between them. 
The hobo, foot-loose and care-free, leads, Mr. Payne 
thinks, the ideal life. 

Although we cannot draw lines closely, it seems 
clear that there are at least five types of homeless 
men: (a) the seasonal worker,^ the transient or 
occasional worker or hobo, (c) the tramp who 
"dreams and wanders" and works only when it is 
convenient, (d) the bum who seldom wanders and 
seldom works, and (e) the home guard who lives in 
Hobohemia and does not leave town.^ 


Seasonal workers are men who have definite 
occupations in different seasons. The yearly circuit 
of their labors takes them about the country, often 
into several different states. These men may work 
in the clothing industries during cold weather but 
in summer are employed at odd jobs; or they may 
have steady work in summer and do odd jobs in 

''Dearborn Independent^ March i8, 1922. 

* The seasonal worker may be regarded also as the upper-class hobo. 

3 The first three types of homeless men are described in this chapter; the 
last two types are considered in chapter vii. 



winter. One man picks fruit in summer and works 
as a machinist in winter. He does not spend his 
summers in the same state nor his winters in the 
same city but follows those two occupations through- 
out the year. 

41. Bill S. is a Scotchman and a seasonal worker. During 
the winter he is usually in Chicago. He works as a practical 
nurse. He is efficient and well liked by his patients and a 
steady worker during the winter. In summer he quits and goes 
to the harvest fields or works on a construction job. Since leav- 
ing his winter job (March to October, 1922) he has had several 
jobs out of Chicago none of which lasted more than a week or 
two. Between times he loafs on West Madison Street. He 
does not drink. He is well behaved. Seldom dresses up. When 
last heard of he was in Kansas City, Missouri, where he thought 
he would spend the winter. 

42. Jack M. works on the lake boats during the sailing season. 
When the boats tie up for the winter he tries to get into the 
factories, or he goes to the woods. Sometimes during the tie-up 
he takes a notion to travel and goes West or South to while away 
the time. He has just returned from a trip East and South 
where he has been "seeking work" and "killing time" a week or 
so before the season opened. He has already signed up for the 
summer. He is loafing and lodging in the meanwhile on West 
Madison and South State streets. 

/ The seasonal worker has a particular kind of work 
that he follows somewhere at least part of the year. 
The hotels of Hobohemia are a winter resort for 
many of these seasonal workers whose schedule is 
relatively fixed and habitudinal. Some of these who 
return to the city regularly every winter come with 
money. In that case, they do not work until next 
season. Others return without money. They have 
some kind of work which they follow in the winter. 
The hobo, proper, is a transient worker without a 




A hobo is a migratory worker in the strict sense of 
the word. He works at whatever is convenient in the 
mills, the shops, the mines, the harvests, or any of 
the numerous jobs that come his way without regard 
for the times or the seasons. The range of his activi- 
ties is nation wide and with many hobos it is inter- 
national. He may cross a continent between jobs. 
He may be able in one year to function in several 
industries. He may have a trade or even a profes- 
sion. He may even be reduced to begging between 
jobs, but his living is primarily gained by work and 
that puts him in the hobo class. 

43. E. J. is a carpenter. He was at one time a good work- 
man but due to drink and dissipation he has lost his ability to do 
fine work and has been reduced to the status of a rough carpenter. 
At present he follows bridge work and concrete form work. 
Sometimes he tries his hand at plain house carpentry but due to 
the fact that he moves about so much, he has lost or disposed 
of many of his tools. A spree lasts about three weeks and he 
has about three or four a year. Sometimes he travels without his 
kit and does not work at his trade. He never drinks while work- 
ing. It is only when he goes to town to spend his vacations that 
he gets drunk. He is restless and uncomfortable and does not 
know how to occupy his mind when he is in town and sober. 
He is fifty-six years old. He never married and never has had 
a home since he was a boy. 

44. M. P. is interesting because he has a trade but does not 
follow it seasonally. He is a plasterer and he seems to be a good 
one. In his youth he learned the trade of stone mason. He 
came to this country from England in his twenties and he is past 
fifty now. He married in Pennsylvania where his wife died and 
where a daughter still lives. He became a wanderer and for 
many years did not work at his trade. He did various kinds of 
work as the notion came to him. As he is getting older he is 
less inclined to wander and he makes fewer excursions into other 
lines of work outside his trade. During the past year he has not 



left Chicago and he has done little other than to work as a 
plasterer. He lives in the Hobohemian areas and is able to get 
along two or three weeks on a few days' work. He seldom works 
more than a week at a time. He takes a lively interest in the 
hobo movement of the city and has been actively engaged in the 
"Hobo College." Recently he won a lot in a raffle. It is located 
in the suburbs of the city. During the summer (1922) he had 
a camp out there and he and his friends from Madison Street 
spent considerable time in his private "jungle." 

The hobo group comprises the bulk of the migra- 
tory workers, in fact, nearly all migrants in transit 
are hobos of one sort or other. Hobos have a romantic 
place in our history. From the beginning they have 
been numbered among the pioneers. They have 
played an important role in reclaiming the desert 
and in subduing the trackless forests. They have 
contributed more to the open, frank, and adventur- 
ous spirit of the Old West than we are always willing 
to admit. They are, as it were, belated frontiersmen. 
Their presence in the migrant group has been the 
chief factor in making the American vagabond class 
different from that of any other country. 

It is difficult to classify the numerous types of 
hobos. The habits, type of work, the routes of 
travel, etc., seem to differ with each individual. 
Some live more parasitic lives than others. Some 
never beg or get drunk, while others never come to 
town without getting intoxicated and being robbed 
f or arrested, and perhaps beaten. One common char- 
acteristic of the hobo, however, is that he works. He 
\ usually has horny hands and a worker's mien. He 
aims to live by his labor. 

As there are different types of homeless men, so 
different varieties of this particular brand, the hobo, 
may be differentiated. A part of the hobo group 



known as "harvest hands" follows the harvest and 
other agricultural occupations of seasonal nature. 
Another segment of the group works in the lumber 
woods and are known as "lumber jacks" or 
"timber beasts." A third group is employed in 
construction and maintenance work. A "gandy 
dancer" is a man who works on the railroad track 
tamping ties. If he works on the section he may 
be called a "snipe" or a "jerry." 

A "skinner" is a man who drives horses or mules. 

A "mucker" or a "shovel stiff" is a man who does manual 
labor on construction jobs. 

A "rust eater" usually works on extra-gangs or track-laying 
jobs; handles steel. 

A "dino" is a man who works with and handles dynamite. 

A "splinter-belly" is a man who does rough carpenter work or 
bridge work. 

A "cotton glaumer" picks cotton, an "apple knocker" picks 
apples and other fruit. 

A "beach comber" is a plain sailor, of all men the most 

For every vocation that is open to the migratory 
worker there is some such characteristic name. In 
the West the hobo usually carries a bundle in which he 
has a bed, some extra clothes, and a little food. The 
man who carries such a bundle is usually known as a 
" bundle stiff" or " bundle bum." The modern hobo 
does not carry a bundle because it hinders him when 
he wishes to travel fast. It is the old man who went 
West "to grow up with the country" who still clings 
to his blanket roll. 


While the word " tramp " is often used as a blanket 
term applied to all classes of homeless and potentially 
vagrant or transient types, it is here used in a stricter 



sense to designate a smaller group. He is usually 
thought of, by those familiar with his natural his- 
tory, as an able-bodied individual who has the 
romantic passion to see the country and to gain new 
experience without work. He is a specialist at 
"getting by.'' He is the type that Josiah Flynt 
had in mind when he wrote his book. Tramping with 
Tramps. He is typically neither a drunkard nor a 
bum, but an easy-going individual who lives from 
hand to mouth for the mere joy of living. 

45. X. began life as a half orphan. Later he was adopted and 
taken from Ohio to South Dakota. In his early teens he grew 
restive at home and left. But for brief seasons he has been 
away ever since and he is now past forty-five. He has traveled 
far and wide since but has worked little. He makes his living by 
selling joke books and song books. Sometimes he tries his hand 
at selling little articles from door to door. A few years ago he 
wrote a booklet on an economic subject and sold several thousand 
copies. During the winter of 1921-22 he sold the Hobo News 
each month. He is able to make a Hving this way. Any extra 
money he has he loses at the gambling tables. He spends his 
leisure time attempting to write songs or poetry. He knows a 
great deal about publishers but it is all information that has come 
in his efforts to sell his songs. He claims that he has been work- 
ing for several years on a novel. He offered his work for inspec- 
tion. He tries to lead the hero through all the places that he 
has visited and the hero comes in contact with many of the 
things he has seen or experienced in many cities but nowhere does 
his hero work. He enjoys life just as X. endeavors to do now. 
During the summer (1922) he has taken several "vacations" 
in the country for a week or more at the time. 

46. C. is twenty-five years old. His home is in New York 
but he has not been home for more than ten years. He intro- 
duced himself to the "Hobo College" early in the spring of 1922 
as "B-2." This name he assumed upon the conviction that he 
is the successor of "A-i," the famous tramp. He said that he 
had read "A-i's" books and although he did not agree in every 
respect, yet he thought that "A-i" was the greatest of tramp 



writers. claimed that he had ridden on every railroad in 

the United States. His evidence of travel was a book of post- 
office stamps. When he comes to a town he goes to the post- 
office and requests the postmaster to stamp his book much 
as letters are stamped. Another hobby he has is to go to the 
leading newspapers and endeavor to sell a write-up. He carries 
an accumulation of clippings. He has an assortment of flashy 
stories that take well with newspaper men. He claims that he 
has been pursued by bloodhounds in the South, that he has been 
arrested many times for vagrancy, that he is the only man who 
has beat his way on the Pikes Peak Railroad. He always carries 
a blanket and many other things that class him among wanderers 
as an individualist. He has been in the Army, saw action and 
was in the Army of Occupation. He does not seek work. He 
says his leisure time can be better spent. He carries a vest 
pocket kodak. He says that the pictures and notes he takes will 
some day be published. 

The distinctions between the seasonal worker, 
the hobo, and the tramp, while important, are not 
hard and fast. The seasonal worker may descend 
into the ranks of the hobos, and a hobo may sink to 
the level of the tramp. But the knowledge of this 
tendency to pass from one migratory group to 
another is significant for any program that attempts 
to deal with the homeless man. Significant, also, 
but not sufficiently recognized, is the difference 
between these migratory types and the stationary 
types of homeless men, the "home guard" and the 



THE seasonal worker, the hobo, and the tramp 
are migratory types; the home guard and the 
bum are relatively stationary. The home guard, like 
the hobo, is a casual laborer, but he works, often only 
by the day, now at one and again at another of the 
multitude of unskilled jobs in the city. The bum, 
like the tramp, is unwilling to work and lives by 
begging and petty thieving. 


Nearly if not quite one-half of the homeless men 
in Hobohemia are stationary casual laborers. These 
men, contemptuously termed "home guards" by 
the hobo and the tramp, work regularly or irregularly 
at unskilled work, day labor, and odd jobs. They 
live or at least spend their leisure time on the 
"main stem," but seldom come to the attention of 
the charities or the police, or ask alms on the street. 
Many of them have lived in Chicago for years. 
Others after a migratory career as hobos or tramps 
"settle down" to a stationary existence. This group 
includes remittance men, often the "black sheep" of 
families of standing in far-off communities who send 
them a small regular allowance to remain away from 

47. L. E. was born on the West Side and at present his 
family lives in Logan Square. He is twenty-three years old and 
has been away from home a year. He claims that after his 
mother's death he and his father could not agree. He imme- 
diately found his way to West Madison Street where he has lived 
since. During the winter (1921-22) he was converted in the 
Bible Rescue Mission but later he got drunk and would not 




try again. However, he used to visit the mission after that when 
he had no bed and was hungry. He is a teamster and works 
regularly though he saves no money. He has no decent clothing 
and cares for none. He cares only to spend his Sundays and 
leisure time on West Madison Street, where he has a few 
acquaintances. He usually returns to work Monday morning 
after such visits, sick from the moonshine whisky. His health 
is not good. Most of his teeth are decayed but he will not save 
money to get dental work done. If he has any money to spend 
aside from that wanted for booze he goes to the movies and loafs 
the time away. He also attends the Haymarket or the Star 
and Garter theaters. He left his job two or three times during 
the summer. While he was not working he slept in stables. He 
doesn't go home nor communicate with his people. 

The tendency for the casual worker to sink to 
the level of the bum is illustrated by the case of 

48. "Shorty" claims that he has lived in the Hobohemian 
areas on South State and West Madison streets for thirty-nine 
years. He has never lived anywhere else. He doesn't care to go 
anywhere else. He tried married life a while but failed because 
of drink and returned to the "street." Drink is still getting him 
into trouble. He has dropped down the economic scale from an 
occasional worker to the status of a bum. This summer (1922) 
he has been arrested several times, and he has served two terms 
at the House of Correction. All the arrests were for drunken- 
ness and disorder. He is developing into a professional pan- 
handler or beggar. During the summer he has had two or three 
jobs. Once he was at the stockyards where he claims to have 
worked steadily in the early days. Being well known on the 
"streets" he is able to get odd jobs now and then that give him 
money enough to "get by." He has not been divorced from his 
wife. She won't hve with him and he does not care. He has a 
child twelve or thirteen years old but he has not seen her for 
several years. He does not know where she is. He is not 
interested. He spends his leisure time on Madison Street near 
Desplaines where he may be found almost every day stand- 
ing on the corner or sitting on the curb talking to some 
other "bo." 




In every city there are ne'er-do-wells — men who 
are wholly or partially dependent and frequently de- 
linquent as well. The most hopeless and the most 
helpless of all the homeless men is the bum, including 
in this type the inveterate drunkard and drug 
addicts. Old, helpless, and unemployable, these are 
the most pitiable and the most repulsive types of the 
down-and-outs. From this class are recruited the 
so-called ''mission stiffs*' who are so unpopular 
among the Hobohemian population. 

49. L. D., forty-five years old, is a typical so-called "mission 
bum." He has not been known to work for eight months. During 
winter he is always present in some mission. Once he permitted 
himself to be led forward and knelt in prayer but was put out of 
the same mission later for being drunk. He claims that he was 
a prize fighter in his youth. He has traveled a great deal but he 
has always been a drinking man. When he is sober he is morose 
and quiet. As soon as spring permitted him to sleep out he 
ceased to visit the missions. 

He has spent most of the summer on the docks along the 
river where he sleeps nights and where he has been getting work 
now and then unloading the fruit boats that ply between Chicago 
and Michigan. During the eight months he has been observed 
he has bought no new clothes. Not once during the summer has 
he left the city. He says that he has been in town for three years. 
The future seems to mean nothing to him. He does not worry 
about the coming winter. 

50. A. B. is an habitual drunkard. He migrates a great deal 
but it seems that his migrations are to escape tedium and monot- 
ony rather than to work. He is a little, hollow-chested, under- 
sized man and he claims to be thirty-two. He says that his 
health has not been good. He has a work history, it seems, but 
it is a record of light jobs. He picked berries, washed dishes, 
peddled, but he was also a successful beggar. His success in 
begging seems to lie in the ability to look pitiful. He has been in 
but four or five states of the Middle West but has been in most 



of the large cities. He does not patronize the missions because 
he says he can do better begging. 


Many of the terms which are epithets picturesquely 
describe special types of homeless men. The popular 
names for the various types of tramps and hobos are 
current terms that have been picked up on the street 
as they pass from mouth to mouth. Some of them 
are new, others are old, while all of them are in 
flux. Names of types are coined by the men them- 
selves. They serve a while and then pass out, giving 
place to new and more catchy terms. Change is 
characteristic of tramp terminology and tramp 
jargon. Words assume a different meaning as they 
are extensively used, or they become too general in 
their use and newer terms are invented. Many of 
the names by which types are designated were at 
first terms of derision, but terms seem to lose their 
stigma by continued use.^ 

Among tramps who seldom if ever work are those 
who peddle some kind of wares or sell some kind of 

The Mushfaker is a man who sells his services. He may be 
a tinker, a glazier, an umbrella mender, or he may repair sewing 
machines or typewriters. Some mushfakers even pose as piano 
tuners. The mushfaker usually follows some occupation which 
permits him to sit in the shade while he works. Often the trade 
or art he plies is one that he has learned in a penal institution. 

The Scissor Bill is a man who carries with him tools to 
sharpen saws, knives, razors, etc. Often he pushes a grindstone 
along the street. 

Beggars among tramps are usually named with reference to 
the methods they employ. 

^The term "punk" is an instance; it had a special meaning at one time 
but is beginning to have a milder and more general use and the term "lamb" is 
taking its place. 



The following classification is taken from a narra- 
tive work by "A No. i, The Famous Tramp," who 
claims to have traveled 500,000 miles for $7.61. His 
books are more or less sensational and are not popular 
among many tramps, because they say the incidents 
he relates are overdrawn.^ 

The Rating of the Tramps by "A No. i" 



Solicited alms at stores, offices, and 







Simulated paralysis 



Pretends to be deaf and dumb 

6. Wires 

Peddling articles made of stolen 

telegraph wires 


Mush Faker 1 

Umbrella mender who learned 


Mush Rigger j 

trade in penal institution 



.... Disguised begging by selling shoe- 










. . . .Train rider who lost a foot 


Fingy or Fingers , . . . 

. . . .Train rider who lost one or more 




.... Train rider who lost one or both 



. . . .Train rider who lost one or both 




. . . .Train rider who lost one or both 




. . . .Train rider who lost right arm 

and leg 



, . Train rider who lost left arm and leg 

' Mother Delcassee of the Hobos , pp. 43-44. 



20. Halfy Train rider who lost both legs 

below knee 

21. Straight Crip Actually crippled or otherwise 


22. Phoney Crip Self-mutilated or simulating a 


23. Pokey Stiff Subsisting on handouts solely 

24. Phoney Stiff Disposing of fraudulent jewelry 

25. Proper Stiff Considered manual toil the acme 

of disgrace 

26. Gink or Gandy Stiff Occasionally labored, a day or two 

at the most 

^l' ^}^^^ ^T^-^ c -nrl Confirmed consumers of alcohol 

28. White Lme Stiff J 

29. Rummy Stiff Deranged intellect by habitual use 

of raw rum 

10. Bundle Stiff 1 • j u jj- 

31. Blanket StifF/ carried beddmg 

32. Chronicker Hoboed with cooking utensils 

33. Stew Bum 

34. Ding Bat 

35. Fuzzy Tail 

36. Grease Tail 

37. Jungly Buzzard 

38. Shine or Dingy Colored vagabond 

39. Gay Cat Employed as scout by criminal 


40. Dino or Dynamiter Sponged food of fellow hobos 

41. Yegg Roving desperado 

42. Gun Moll A dangerous woman tramp 

43. Hay Bag A female stew bum 

44. Jocker Taught minors to beg and crook 

45. Road Kid or Preshun. . . .Boy held in bondage by jocker 

46. Punk Boy discarded by jocker 

47. Gonsil Youth not yet adopted by jocker 

The beggar is one who stands in one place. He 
supplicates help by appealing to the pity of the 
passers-by. The moocher is an individual who is 
somewhat more mobile than the beggar. He moves 
about, going to the houses and asking for food, cloth- 

,The dregs of vagrantdom 



ing, and even money, if he can get it. The pan- 
handler is a beggar of a more courageous type. He 
hails men on the street and asks for money. He does 
not fawn nor whine nor strive to arouse pity. Dr. 
Reitman says: "The only difference between a 
moocher and a panhandler is that the moocher 
goes to the back door while the panhandler goes to 
the front door.'' 

The beggar types may also be divided into the 
able-bodied and the non-able-bodied. The non-able- 
bodied beggars are more numerous in the cities. They 
are forced, because of their handicaps, to remain 
where the greatest number of people are. Some 
handicapped beggars, however, are able to travel 
with marvelous speed over the country. These non- 
able-bodied types go by different names according 
to their afflictions. 

Peggy is a one-legged man. Stumpy is a legless man. 
Wingy is a man with one or both arms off. Blinky is a man with 
one or both eyes defected. A Dummy is a man who is dumb or 
deaf and dumb. Some of these types do not beg. They make 
a livelihood by peddling or working at odd jobs. A Nut is a 
man who is apparently mentally deranged. 

The Hop Head is an interesting type. He is 
usually in a pitiful condition, for he has small chance, 
living as he does, in the tramp class, to get money to 
buy "dope." Frequently he resorts to clever and 
even desperate means to secure it. One type of 
dope fiend is the Junkie. He uses a "gun" or needle 
to inject morphine or heroin. A Sniffer is one who 
sniffs cocaine. More frequent than the drug habit 
is the drink habit. 

The tramp class has different types of predatory 
individuals and petty or even major offenders: 



The Gun is a man who might be termed a first-class crook. 
He is usually a man who is living in the tramp class to avoid 
apprehension. He may be a robber or a burglar. 

The Jack Roller is a tramp who robs a fellow-tramp while he 
is drunk or asleep. There is a type of "Jack" who operates 
among the men going to and from the harvests. He may hold 
them up in a box car with a gun or in some dark alley. He is 
usually called a Hi-Jack. 

Among other types of tramps are: 

The Mission Stiff who preys upon the missions. He will 
often submit to being converted for his bed and board. 

The Grafter is frequently a man who is able to exploit the 
private and public charity organizations, or the fraternal 

The Bad Actor is a man who has become a nuisance to his 
people and they pay him money provided he does not show him- 
self in his home town. 

The Jungle Buzzard is a tramp who lives in the jungles from 
what he can beg. He will wash the pots and kettles for the 
privilege of eating what is left in them. 

From the point of view of abnormal sex relations 
there are several types of tramps: 

A Punk is a boy who travels about the country with a man 
known as a jocker. 

A jocker is a man who exploits boys; that is, he either 
exploits their sex or he has them steal or beg for him or both. 
The term "wolf" is often used synonymously with jocker. 

Fairies or Fags are men or boys who exploit sex for profit. 

From the economic standpoint, migratory workers 
are employables and unemployables. Between the 
extremes there are individuals of every shade of 
employability. The ability of a man to support 
himself is presumed to be related to his ability and 
to his opportunity to work. The tramp problem has 
been interpreted first of all as an unemployment 



problem, but this does not take account of the 

First of all, there are the physically handicapped, 
the crippled, the blind, the deaf, and the aged, and 
many who are too fat or too puny or too sickly to 
do heavy manual work. Perhaps a half of the whole 
group in a city like Chicago are physically handi- 
capped to a greater or less extent. 

Second, the psychopathic types include many 
irresponsible and undependable persons found in the 
population of Hobohemia. These either cannot hold 
a job, or do not care to; they have other ideals. 
They could, no doubt, do some sort of work but 
most of them would have to be supervised. 

To what degree homeless men are employable, to 
what degree some of them are partially employable, 
and to what extent the whole group is unemployable 
is a question that cannot be finally answered.' 

The problem of the homeless men is variously 
interpreted. The courts and the police are interested 
in them as offenders. As offenders, they are gener- 
ally recidivists; to the social worker and the mission- 
ary they represent a body of men who have no 
purpose or direction. 

One mission worker says: 

A few of them can hold their own. They manage to work 
most of the time and pay their way, but most of them are " broke" 
some of the time and some of them are without money all the 
time. They are always making resolutions and never keeping 
them. They don't seem to have any stiffening in their backbone. 

However we may classify this group, the fact 
remains that we have here a great body of persons, 

^ The unemployables are a more or less permanent class and do not come 
and go with the seasons as do the employables. Able-bodied employables are 
an effect of economic depression. 



probably more than a million in the United States/ 
and that they furnish a problem that seems to be 
ever present. It is, as we shall see later, a great 
heterogeneous group, unorganized and incapable of 
being organized. They have been gathered from 
every walk of life and for a thousiand different reasons 
find themselves in this class. There are restless and 
normal boys and young men who are out in the world 
for adventure and whose stay in the class is more or 
less temporary; there are able-bodied men of more 
mature age who are either wholly self-supporting or 
are self-supporting most of the time; and there are 
old men who are too aged and infirm to work and 
too proud to surrender themselves to an institution. 
There are the physically incapacitated and the men- 
tally inadequate who are more or less dependent and 
are likely to continue so, and there are many types 
of persons who are the victims of lingering diseases 
or who are addicted to drink or drugs and are not 
able to hold their own. All these are making the 
best struggle that their wits, their strength, and their 
opportunities permit to get a living. Some of them 
are in the group by choice and have their minds 
clearly made up to climb out, others hope to get out 
and strive to but never will, and yet others never 
have any such visions. 


An estimate has already been made that the 
number of homeless men in Chicago range from 
30,000 in the summer to 60,000 in the winter, reach- 

^ Estimates vary; Lescohier (Commons, Trade Unionism and Labor 
Problems, 13,3) gives the number as "more than half a million men," while 
Speek {Annals of the American Academy, 1917) refers to estimates that go as 
high as five million. 



ing 75,000 in periods of unemployment. Any at- 
tempt to state the numbers of the different types 
of homeless men can be little more than a guess. 
The difficulty is the greater because individuals are 
continually passing from one group into another 
group. One man in his lifetime may perchance have 
been, in turn, seasonal laborer, hobo, tramp, home 
guard, and bum. 

The public generally fails to distinguish between 
these types. The group of bums, beggars, and 
petty thieves, often mistakenly thought of as repre- 
sentative of the homeless men's group, probably does 
not exceed in Chicago a total number of 2,500. The 
number of the home-guard type, the stationary 
casual worker, has been placed at 30,000, the sum- 
mer population of Hobohemia on the basis of the 
number of permanent guests at lodging-house and 
hotel, and the number of registered voters among 
the homeless men.^ The number of tramps who visit 
Chicago each year can only be roughly estimated at 
1 50,000,^ or an average of perhaps 5,000 at any given 
time. The migratory worker, including both the 
seasonal laborer and the hobo, number on the aver- 
age around 10,000 and reach a total of 300,000 or 
more persons who come to Chicago for the winter 
or to secure a shipment to work outside the city. 
In periods of economic depression the numbers of 
homeless men in Hobohemia are swollen with men 
out of work, the majority of whom for the first time 
have been turned adrift on the "main stem." 

' See p. 14 n. 

'These numbers indicate the number of visits rather than the number of 
separate individuals since a certain proportion of men visit Chicago two or 
more times during the year. 



THE occupations that select out of the foot-loose 
males in our population the most restless types 


1. Agriculture or crop moving. — ^When the crops 
are ready to be garnered labor must be imported at 
any cost. The leading crops in these seasonal de- 
mands are grain harvesting, corn shucking, fruit pick- 
ing, potato digging, beet topping, cotton picking, 
hop picking, etc. If a man follows the wheat harvest, 
he may be occupied from the middle of June when the 
crop is ready in Oklahoma until November or Decem- 
ber when the season ends with threshing in North 
Dakota and Canada. Workers who pick fruit may 
remain in one locality and have some kind of fruit 
always coming on. 

2. Building and construction work, — Next to crop 
moving the building trades and construction jobs 
make the heaviest seasonal demands upon the labor 
market. Railroad construction, ditch digging, and 
similar occupations are generally discontinued during 
the winter. Carpentry, masonry, brick and con- 
crete work are only carried on with reduced numbers 
of men through the cold months. 

3. Fishing. — Salmon fishing on the Pacific Coast 
and oyster fishing on the Atlantic Coast are also 
seasonal industries. In the fishing industry, as in 
other seasonal occupations, there is a demand for 
experienced workers that cannot always be had when 
most needed. 

4. Sheep shearing. — Sheep shearing is a skilled 
trade. Thousands of men are needed to harvest the 




wool crop each year and these men are forced to 
become migratory. The shearing season, Hke the 
harvest, moves from border to border during a period 
of three or four months. In the Southwest the sheep 
are sometimes cHpped twice a year. The shearing 
jobs are usually short but lucrative. 

5. Ice harvesting. — Formerly the ice harvest fur- 
nished employment to an army of men for two 
months or more during the winter. Ice-manufactur- 
ing plants have diminished the demand for natural 
ice, though ice cutting still furnishes winter jobs for 
many men. 

6. Lumbering, — Working in the lumber woods and 
in the saw mills is not now so much of a seasonal job 
as it was when the industry centered around the 
Great Lakes. The industry has gone West or over 
the border into Canada, where, with the longer 
winter season and improved facilities, it operates 
almost all year. It is not necessary in Washington, 
Oregon, and California to wait for the snow to begin 
work in the woods as in Michigan and Wisconsin in 
the early days. 

Certain occupations not essentially seasonal have 
a tendency to contribute to migrancy. In many 
metal mines a man's health will not permit him to 
work long. He leaves and goes into some other 
mine in the same or a different district where the 
danger is not present. A miner tends to become a 
migrant for the sake of his health. There are other 
industries in which hazards exist that force workers 
to become transient. 

The American hobo has been a great pioneer. 
New mining camps, oil booms, the building of a 
town in a few weeks, or any mushroom development 



utilizes a great many transient workers. After a 
flood, a fire, or an earthquake, there is a great 
demand for labor. The migratory worker is always 
ready to respond. It is his life, in which he finds 
variety and experience and, last but not least, some- 
thing to talk about. 


In seasonal and casual work, as in all types of 
industry, a process of selection takes place. Great 
numbers of men are attracted into seasonal occupa- 
tions because of the good wages offered. But only 
those remain who are content to migrate from one 
locality to another in response to the demands for 
labor. The average man soon realizes that in the 
course of a year seasonal work does not pay even if 
fabulous wages are received for short-lived jobs. 
The man who continues as a migratory worker is 
likely, therefore, to be a person who is either unable 
to find or unable to hold a permanent job. Some 
workers become restless after a few weeks or months 
in one place. Seasonal and casual work seems to 
have selected out these restless types and made hobos 
of them. 

Migratory workers have a certain body of tradi- 
tions; they know how to get work; what kind of 
work to look for; when to look for certain kinds of 
work, and where certain work may be found. They 
fall in with the seasonal migration of workers and 
drift into certain localities to do certain jobs; to the 
potato fields, the fruit picking, the wheat harvest. 

The hobo worker finds his way to out-of-town 
jobs more often than to city work. Upon leaving an 
out-of-town job he is likely to return to the city in 



order to locate another job out of the city or even out 
of the state. This tendency of the foot-loose worker 
to drift into the city has turned the attention of the 
employer to the city whenever he needed help. Both 
the worker and the employer have been attracted to 
the city in an effort to solve their labor difficulties. 
Intermediate agencies spring up to bring together the 
jobless man and the man with jobs to offer. Employ- 
ment agents, congregating in the Hobohemian sec- 
tions of the city, convert those areas into labor 

Chicago is probably the greatest labor exchange 
^ for the migratory worker in the United States, if 
not in the world. Probably no other city furnishes 
more men for railroad work. In days past, when so 
many new railroads were being built, there were 
great demands for men in the West, and it was not 
uncommon to get a 1,000-mile shipment any time 
in the year. One is still able to secure free ship- 
ments of from 400 to 600 miles. 

There are more than 200 private employment agen- 
cies in Chicago. There were, on August 14, 1922, 39 
1 licensed private agencies of the type patronized by 
I the homeless man. Eighteen of these were on Canal 
^ Street, thirteen were on West Madison Street, and 
the rest in close proximity to that area. In addition 
to these there are many agencies not operating on a 
commission basis which hire men for a private cor- 
poration and are maintained by that corporation. 
As such they are not licensed nor does the law affect 

No figures are at hand to show how many men 
these private agencies place during the year. Their 
records are not merely inadequate; they are a joke. 



In fact, few of them keep records that list all appli- 
cants, all men placed, jobs registered, etc., though the 
state law definitely declares that this must be done. 

The inclusion of the non-fee-collecting agencies 
will raise the number from 39 to over 50. If each 
agency sends out, at a low estimate, 10 men a day, 
and if each operates 300 days a year, a total of 150,000 
men are placed in jobs annually. Over 57,000 men 
in 1921-22 were placed by the free employment 
agency. Many of these homeless men have access to 
other private agencies than those situated on the 
"stem/* and often they prefer to go to such agencies. 
If 100 of these agencies furnished jobs to 2 homeless 
men a day for 300 days a year, we would have an 
additional 60,000. About 250,000 homeless men 
pass through the Chicago employment agencies 
every year. 

Employment agencies fall into two classes — the 
public, or those operated by the federal govern- 
ment, the state, or the municipality and those 
conducted under private management. The private 
agency is the pioneer. It was not only the outgrowth 
of a certain condition in the labor market but it was 
the reason for the creation of the public employment 


The idea is becoming general that employment 
offices have a social responsibility. They have duties 
to the applicants, to the employers, and to the public 
that are more than economic; more than a business of 
seUing jobs to jobless men. It is a responsibility 
that is not imposed upon the ordinary business man 
and that has no prominent place in the code of busi- 
ness ethics. 



The private employment agencies that cater to 
the homeless men are chiefly located on the West 
Side. The 1919-20 Report of the Illinois Department 
of Labor^ shows that during that period there were 
295 licensed private employment agencies in Chicago. 
As we noted above, about fifty of these serve the 
homeless men. Most of these fifty agencies are 
located along Canal Street opposite the Union 
Depot, or along Madison Street between the Chicago 
River and Halsted Street. Some of these operate 
the year round, while others come and go with the 
seasons, opening up in prosperous times and going 
out of existence when the demand for labor falls. 

A few of the private agencies are fairly well 
equipped; that is, they have desks, counters, tele- 
phone, chairs or benches, and a waiting-room which 
in cold weather is kept warm for the patrons. 
Others, the majority, have very little equipment, 
perhaps a chair and a table in a single, bare room. 
They keep no books other than what they carry in 
their pockets. For the average small labor agent an 
office is only used as a place to hang the license. He 
gets his patrons by standing on the street and solicit- 
ing. The other private agents are playing the role 
of man catcher, and he must do the same if he would 

There are two types of private labor agencies — 
the commission agencies, and the boarding or com- 
missary agencies. The commission agency is the 
pioneer job-selling institution which survives by 
charging a fee to the employer who seeks workers, or 
by charging a fee to the applicants, or by charging 
both. Usually they charge both the applicant and 

^p. 51. 



the employer, and formerly their prices were gov- 
erned by the demand for jobs, on the one hand, and 
for workers, on the other. (If the competition is for 
workers they can raise the price charged the 
employer. If jobs are scarce they can raise the 
price charged the applicant.) The boarding and 
commissary agency charge no fee for the job. Their 
profit is made in keeping the boarding-house for the 
men they hire. 

In the past it was proverbial that better shipments 
could be had from the private agencies in Chicago 
than from any other city. A few years ago the 
Chicago agencies were shipping men to all the big 
jobs within a radius of from 500 to 1,000 miles, and 
men would come to Chicago from 500 to 1,000 miles 
in one direction to be sent by the agencies to work on 
some job equally as far in another direction. These 
long-distance interstate shipments have been the 
chief factor in the prosperity of the private agencies. 
High prices were charged for the long shipments but 
the men were willing to pay them whether the job 
was good or not in order to secure free transporta- 
tion west or south or east. The long shipments are 
not so numerous at present and the high fees are no 
longer permitted. 

The charge sometimes made that the private agencies are 
gruff and discourteous would seem well founded if one failed to 
consider the behavior of homeless men on the street. These 
men would not pass the same judgment. They are used to 
speaking roughly to each other. They take and give hard 
blows in their dealings with the "labor shark." Many men can 
get along much better with the blunt and unceremonious private 
agent than with the sleek, precise, courteous, and business-like 
officials in the public agencies. Their preference for the private 
agent is not for his gruffness or the ease with which they may 



approach him. It is mainly because he serves them better. 
They hate him for his fees but he gets the jobs they want. 

The migratory worker resents the idea of being 
obliged to pay for the privilege of securing work. In 
every program that the hobo has advocated to change 
society he has made reference to the "labor shark." 
The hobo worker is never disappointed to find that 
the job has been misrepresented by the agency. Nor 
is the agency surprised if the applicant does not go 
to work when he arrives on the job. 


The state has been forced into the employment 
business because of the problems presented by private 
agencies. The public employment agency in Chi- 
cago has not displaced or even seriously affected the 
private employment agency. It is still only in the 
experimental stage, a laboratory in which the employ- 
ment problem may be studied. 

There are three public free employment offices in 
Chicago: one at ii6 North Dearborn for skilled 
workers, one at 105 South Jefferson Street for un- 
skilled workers, and one at 344 East Thirty-fifth 
Street, chiefly for Negro workers. The homeless 
man is chiefly interested in the Federal and State 
Labor Exchange located at 105 South Jefferson Street. 
However, the central office on Dearborn Street, which 
specializes in skilled and permanent employment, at- 
tracts two or three hundred homeless men a day, 
mainly from South State Street. This office is care- 
ful not to send out on jobs "dead line men.'* 

By "dead line men" are meant men who live on Madison 
west of Canal Street. Men "living" on Clark, State, and 
Dearborn streets are more reliable and stand a better chance 



than the "dead line men" to get jobs. The firms that place 
their demand for help with the Dearborn Street bureau generally 
want references, showing place of residence and name of former 
employer. Such firms will not consider a West Madison Street 
man. The clerks sometimes advise an applicant to change his 
address to that of some relative in case the applicant makes a 
favorable impression with the clerk. If a man looks and speaks 
intelligently but is too ragged and dirty to send out on a job, the 
suggestion is sometimes made to clean up and spruce up a bit. 
The transformation in some cases is astonishing.^ 

Probably four or five times as many men are 
placed by the private as by the public employment 
agencies. It seems paradoxical that the migratory 
worker should patronize the private labor agent 
whom he regards as an exploiter and a parasite rather 
than the free employment office, yet there are good 
reasons for his behavior. 

In the first place, the office of the public agency, 
although little more than a block away, is not on the 
"main stem." Strangers in the city find their way 
to the "slave market" without difficulty but may 
never become aware of the existence of the free 
employment office. A migratory worker likes to do 
a little "window shopping" before he takes a job. 
He likes to go along the streets reading the red or 
blue or yellow placards announcing jobs and ship- 
ments until he has made up his mind. The signs and 
scribbled windows of the private agency are maneu- 
vers of salesmanship. The public agency has no 
such signs on the outside. The men must go inside 
to see the blackboard upon which the jobs are written. 

Further, the public agency is in duty bound, as 
the private agency is not, to keep records and to get 
certain information from the workers who apply for 

* Koster, unpublished manuscript, pp. 17-18. 



jobs, and from the employers as well. The men who 
patronize these agencies dishke the "red tape" of the 
public agency; they are often unwilHng to be cata- 
logued and given a number, or go through the other 
formalities so necessary for efficiency. The decisive 
reason why the migratory worker patronizes the 
private agency is because it carries a better class of 
jobs. Jobs involving interstate shipments are usu- 
ally given to the private agencies, partly because it 
is customary, and partly because they know how to 
solicit such contracts for labor. It is difficult for a 
man to get an out-of-state job in the public agency 
since it is more or less local in its jurisdiction. The 
private agencies attract the hobos also because they 
make no effort to see that he goes to work after he 
has been sent. Indeed, it is to their advantage if he 
does not go to work, for then they have the chance 
to send another man. The public agency makes an 
effort to "follow up" the applicants and to "keep 
tab" on them. The hobo worker shies from such 
solicitous treatment. 

Mr. J. J. Kenna, chief inspector of private employ- 
ment agencies, believes that the private agencies 
should be obliged to do likewise. He wrote in his 
report to the State Department of Labor in 1920: 

Another question that might be given consideration is the 
subject of public information pertaining to the business of private 
employment agencies for the instruction . of those interested in 
labor problems and legislation, namely: 

A law compelling the agencies to furnish the State Department 
of Labor with a monthly report of the number of all applicants 
applying for positions, their ages, etc., and also the number of per- 
sons brought into the State and sent out of the State and to where 
sent, the kind of employment for which they were engaged, etc.^ 

^ Third Annual Report of the Department of Labor (1920), p. 50. 



Nothing would do more for efficiency in the 
employment office business than to compel the 
private agencies to keep as efficient records as the 
public bureau. The spirit of competition so prev- 
alent in the private agencies is not present in the 
public labor bureau. The public agency stands 
complacently on the side, never entering the struggle 
to get jobs and men together. It is too much of an 
office and too little of an agency. 

The public and private agencies operate upon 
diametrically opposing assumptions. The assump- 
tion of the public agency is that the man once 
placed will remain so long as the job lasts, and a 
large proportion of their jobs, especially in the Dear- 
born Street office, are for "long stake" men. A 
man's record, his qualifications, are taken and he 
is sent out to the job with the notion that he will 
work steady. The private agencies, on the con- 
trary, assume that few of these men will remain 
long on the job; that they may stay ten days or two 
weeks and seldom longer than three months. The 
public agency with an eye to permanency may be 
expected to move slowly in placing men on jobs, 
whereas the private agency will send anyone to any 
job that he says he can do and that he is willing to 
pay for. 


The casualization of labor, in spite of its concern 
to place men permanently, has a tendency to attract 
"home guards," i.e., men who do not care to leave 
the city and yet do not want steady work. They 
may work from a day to a week, then they return 
for another job. 



The following are a few of the names taken at 
random from a list of men who had been given ten or 
more jobs by the Federal and State Labor Exchange 
between March i, 1922, and August 15, 1922 (five 
and one-half months) : 





Too V^f^ff\T 


' 1 ^ c\Y\ \T V{ 


Jas. Griffin 

c 811 


F. Mullen 



Ed. Moorhead 



Fred Wagoner 



Jas. Purl 



F. A. Murlin 



W. Galvin 



A. Myers 



W. Slavis 

. 2,202 


P. Myshowi 



C. Carroll 

4, 1742 


Jas. Lewis 

.... 3,872 


The records show hundreds of similar instances. 
Some men have been sent to as many as forty or 
fifty jobs during a period of six months and few 
stayed with a job more than a month or two. 

John M. secured 26 jobs from the Free Employment Bureau 
in less than three months between May 4 and July 26. The 
following is the list of employers with the dates of employment:^ 

1. Morris and Co May 4 

2. Ravina Nursery May 6 

3. Edison Co May 10 

4. Ed Katzinger May 18 

5. New Era Coal Co May 24 

6. Ravina Nursery May 26 

I E. H. Koster, unpublished notes, pp. 



7. Home Fuel Co May 27 

8. Morris and Co May 31 

9. 111. Bell Telephone Co June 8 

10. Flazman Iron Co June 12 

11. Greenpoint Beef Co June 13 

12. Astrid Rosing Co June 14 

13. Armstrong Paint Co June 21 

14. Const. Mattress Co June 22 

15. Armour Co June 26 

16. Oxweld Acetylene Co June 27 

17. Oxweld Acetylene Co June 29 

18. Wisconsin Lime Co June 30 

19. American Express Co July i 

20. Wisconsin Lime Co. July 5 

21. Oxweld Acetylene Co July 10 

22. Oxweld Acetylene Co July 11 

23. Edison Co July 15 

24. Low Pipe Co July 24 

25. International Har. Co July 25 

26. J. A. Ross July 26 

John M. is a casual laborer. He is one of a type 
that works by the day, is paid by the day, and lives 
by the day. Don. D. Lescohier has described the 
characteristics of the casual workers: 

A man becomes a casual when he acquires the casual state of 
mind. The extreme type of casual never seeks more than a 
day's work. He lives strictly to the rule, one day at a time. 
If you ask him why he does not take a steady job, he will tell 
you that he would like to, but that he hasn't money enough to 
enable him to Hve until pay-day, and no one will give him credit. 
If you offer to advance his board until pay-day, he will accept 
your offer and accept the job you offer him, but he will not show 
up on the job, or else will quit at the end of the first day. He has 
acquired a standard or scale of work and life that makes it 
almost impossible for him to restore himself to steady employ- 
ment. He lacks the desire, the will-power, self-control, ambition, 
and habits of industry which are essential to it.^ 

I Lescohier, The Labor Market y p. 264. 



The demoralizing effect of a period of unemploy- 
ment upon the migratory and casual worker is indi- 
cated in an interview given to the investigator by 
Mr. Charles J. Boyd, general superintendent of the 
Illinois Free Employment Offices in Chicago. 

Depending on one's point of view, the homeless man, owing 
to the serious industrial depression during the winter of 1921- 
1922 had remarkable success in begging or panhandling. The 
spirit of the public during the depression was to help the unem- 
ployed man and advantage of this situation was not lost sight 
of by the hobo who worked on the sympathy of the public. 
With the approach of summer and improved industrial condi- 
tions, the hobo continued to make a living in other ways than 
by working for it. There seems to be an understanding among 
this class of men not to work for less than 50c an hour, and 
they are loath to accept steady employment at 35c to 37§c hour 
when they can do temporary work, and work at a different job 
every day, or any day one pleases, at 45c to 50c an hour. The 
hobo is reluctant to work in foundries or steel mills. He likes 
the open and when winter is past, the hobo, with few exceptions, 
refuses inside work. 

The hobos of today are made up of young men, ranging in 
ages from 18 to 35 years. They form in groups of six or seven, 
camp in the "brush" and send a different one of their group out 
each day to panhandle in the town or village near which they 
may be camping. Then too, these men have very decided 
views on the Volstead law, before the enactment of which the 
hobo felt he had some inducement to work, for he liked his 
beer, if it was only i| per cent, and he did not know it. But 
since prohibition, his attitude seems to be "Why should I work 
any more than I really have to.^" or in other words, more than 
to get enough for food and a place to sleep.^ 

The hobo is not unfamiliar with strike jobs. 
Corporations, when forced to the wall in a labor 
crisis, often come to the "stem" for their strike- 
breakers. By offering alluring wages and the assur- 

^ From the unpublished notes of an interview by E. H. Koster. 



ance of security, they are able to attract from ranks 
of even the casual workers enough men to keep the 
plants running. Labor agencies of this kind are 
not popular on the ''stem'*; neither are the men 
who hire out as strike-breakers. But in spite of this 
stigma they survive as during the railroad strike 
in the summer of 1922. These railroad agencies 
crowded even to the heart of the Madison Street 
mart and eventually forced the private agencies to 
deal in strike jobs. 

Strike-breakers or "scabs" are of four varieties: 
(i) men who are innocently attracted to the job 
(it is generally charged that this was the case in the 
Herrin affair); (2) men who are "too proud to beg 
and too honest to steal*'; (3) men who have a grudge 
against some striking union, or against organized 
labor in general; and (4) men who hire out as 
bona fide workers but really "bore from within" 
and in the language of the radical "work sabotage." 


All the problems of the homeless man go back in 
one way or another to the conditions of his work. 
The irregularity of his employment is reflected in the 
irregularity of all phases of his existence. To deal 
with him even as an individual, society must deal 
also with the economic forces which have formed his 
behavior, with the seasonal and cyclical fluctuations 
in industry. This means that the problem of the 
homeless man is not local but national. 

The establishment during the war of the United 
States Employment Service gave promise of an 
attempt to cope with the problem nationally. The 
curtailment of this service since 191 9 through inade- 



quate appropriations has prevented its functioning on 
a scale which the situation demands. 

The emphasis upon the development ot a national 
program means no lack of recognition of the service 
of local employment agencies. They are indispen- 
sable units in any effective plan of nation-wide 
organization. The bureaus and branches, in Chi- 
cago, of the Illinois Free Employment offices are 
now co-operating with the United States Employ- 
ment Service. 


The accumulated experience of the local employ- 
ment agencies will be valuable not only in the future 
expansion of the national employment service, but 
in pointing the way to the next steps to be taken 
locally in dealing with the homeless man as a worker. 
The officials of these agencies have learned that the 
problem of adjusting the migratory casual worker in 
industry involves human nature as well as economics. 
A conviction is growing that in connection with, 
or in addition to, the public employment agency 
designed to bring together the man and the job, 
there is need of a clearing house which offers medical, 
psychological, and sociological diagnosis as a basis for 
vocational guidance, after-care service, and industrial 





O EXTENDED study has ever been made ^ 
that would afford an adequate index for the \ 

physical fitness of homeless men. Municipal lodging- 
houses, jails, hospitals, and other institutions have 
collected certain data. But such information is 
indicative of the physical and mental condition of 
those only who have become problems of charity or 
correction. They do not represent the whole group 
of homeless men. However, it is evident from these 
studies that a large proportion ot the entire group is 
below par physically. They indicate at least that 
defective individuals are comparatively numerous 
among hobos and tramps. 


Mrs. Alice W. Solenberger found that two-thirds 
of her i,ooo cases were either physically or mentally 
defective. Of these, 627 men and boys were suffer- 
ing from a total of 722 physical and mental defi- 


Condition Instances 

Insanity 52 

Feeble-mindedness 19 

Epilepsy 18 

Paralysis 40 

Other nervous disorders 21 

Tuberculosis 93 

Rheumatism 37 

Venereal diseases 21 

Other infectious diseases 15 

Heart disease 14 

Disorders of organs other than heart 19 

* Alice W. Solenberger, One Thousand Homeless Men, p. 36. 



Condition Instances 

Crippled, maimed, or deformed; from birth or 

accident i68 

Rupture 1 1 

Cancer 6 

Blind, including partly blind 43 

Deaf, including partly deaf 14 

Defective health through use of drugs and drink. ... 16 
Defective health from lack of nourishment and other 

causes 24 

Convalescent 33 

Aged 35 

All other diseases and defects 7 

Doubtful 16 

Total instances 722 

Total number of different men in defective 
health or condition 627 

She tells us that of the 222 more or less permanently 
handicapped, 106 men had been entirely self- 
supporting before their injuries while 127 were 
entirely dependent after injury. 

A careful study of 100 homeless men made in the 
Municipal Lodging House of New York City by 
F. C. Laubach showed the following defects:^ 

Tubercular 7 Maimed 14 

Venereal 26 Malnutrition 13 

Bronchial 4 Poor sight 9 

Feeble 14 Poor hearing i 

Senile 16 Impediment of speech 2 

Deformed 4 Physically sound 28 

Laubach's 100 cases were selected from more than 
400 men. They represented the 100 who remained 
longest to be examined (perhaps the 100 the least able 
to get away). He found 28 per cent able-bodied 

I F. C. Laubach, Why There Are Vagrants, p. n 


while Mrs. Solenberger reported 37.3 per cent with- 
out observable defects. That this per cent of 
defectives is high for more unselected groups will be 
shown by the following extract from the report of 
the Municipal Lodging House of New York City for 

.... Fifteen hundred men were studied by a staff of fifteen 
investigators. At the same time a medical examination of two 
thousand men was conducted by fifteen medical examiners. 
This investigation represented the first large attempt in America 
to find out about the men who take refuge in a municipal lodging 

Of the 2,000 men who were given a medical examination, 
1,774, approximately 9 out of every 10, were, according to the 
adjudgments of the examining physicians, physically able to 
work. Twelve hundred and forty-seven, or 62 per cent of the 
total, were considered physically able to do regular hard manual 
labor; 254, or 18 per cent, to do medium hard work; and 173, 
or 9 per cent, to do light work only. Two hundred and twenty- 
six, I out of every 10, were adjudged physically unable to 

This investigation showed that in a lean year, 
when many men were out of work, a large proportion 
of the lodging-house population is composed of handi- 
capped men. The physical condition of 400 tramps 
interviewed by the writer is not so much in contra- 
diction as in supplement to the foregoing studies.^ 
Only men in transit were tabulated. Nearly all of 
them were the typical migratory workers or hobos. 
Observation was limited to apparent defects that 

^ Report of the Advisory Social Service Committee of the Municipal Lodging 
House, pp. 9-n. New York City: September, 191 5. 

^This unpublished study of 400 tramps was made while riding freight 
trains from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Chicago in the summer of 1921. All the 
cases tabulated were cases in transit. A large part of them were men who 
regularly beat their way about the country. Document 115. 



would hinder in a noticeable manner the working 
capacity of the men. 

Senile 6 Tuberculosis i 

Maimed 8 Feeble-minded 7 

Eye lost or partly blind 5 Chronic poor health. . . 4 

Eye trouble 5 Impediment of speech 2 

Venereal disease i Temporarily injured. . . 4 

Partly paralyzed 2 Oversized or undersized 4 

These 50 defects were distributed among 48 persons 

Subtracting those who could be classed mentally 
defective, we have but forty-one persons who were 
apparently physically handicapped. It will be noted 
that the percentage of the aged is considerably lower 
than the previous tables show. The same is true of 
the maimed and injured. They were all men who 
were able to "get over the road." One of the 
maimed men had lost an arm while the two others 
had each lost a foot. 

Eye trouble was listed separately because these 
were ailments that were passing. Three ot the men 
had weak eyes and this condition had been aggra- 
vated by train riding and loss of sleep. One man 
had been gassed in the army and his eyes suffered 
from the wind and bright light. Only one man 
admitted that he was suffering from a venereal 

Both men suffering from tuberculosis were miners. 
Both had been in hospitals for treatment. One of 
them was in a precarious condition. The men 
listed as oversized and undersized might be properly 
considered physically handicapped. Two of them 
were uncomfortably fat while the other two were 
conspicuously under weight and height. 



THE hobo's health ON THE JOB 

Often the seasonal work sought by the migratory 
worker is located in out-of-the-way places or with 
little or no medical or sanitary supervision. Some- 
times there are not even tents for the men to sleep 
in. Life and work in the open, so conducive to 
health on bright, warm days, involves exposure in 
cold and stormy weather. In the northwest, where 
rain is so abundant that workers suffer considerably 
from exposure, strikes have even been called to 
enforce demands tor warm, dry bunkhouses. 

In addition to the exposure to the elements there 
are other hazards the migratory and casual workers 
run. On most of his jobs, whether in the woods, the 
swamps, in the sawmills, or the mines and quarries, 
in the harvest, on bridges or on the highways, the 
hobo faces danger. Since he is in the habit of work- 
ing only a few days at the time, a well-paying, 
hazardous job appeals to him. The not infrequent 
accidents are serious since few of these foot-loose 
men carry insurance. 

Seasonal labor generally consists of hard work like 
shoveling or lifting and carrying heavy loads. * Only 
men who can do hard work are wanted. Not much 
so-called "light work" aside from a few jobs in 
kitchens, in stables, or about camps is open to the 
transient. Many homeless men are not physically 
able to do eight or ten hours' hard labor without 
suffering. They are often weak from eating poor 
food or from dissipation. Even if they go on a job 
with their minds made up to remain one or two 
months they are often obliged to leave after a few 
days. Often the hobo works on jobs where there is 
no medical attention. Sometimes, where the job 



includes large numbers of men, a physician is hired 
to go from camp to camp. He is usually known as 
a "pill peddler" and all he pretends to do is give 
first aid to the injured and treat passing ailments. 
Serious cases he sends to the hospital. 

Big industrial organizations usually carry some 
sort of medical insurance and in some cases accident 
insurance. This system of workingmen's compensa- 
tion for industrial accidents is maintained sometimes 
by fees taken from the pay of the men, sometimes 
entirely by the employer. The accident compensa- 
tion, the hospital, and medical privileges apply only 
to ailments and injuries caused by his work. 

The food the hobo receives on the job is not 
always palatable, nor does it always come up to the 
requirements of a balanced diet or the caloric needs 
of a workingman. In the business of feeding the 
men, considerable exploitation enters which the men 
are powerless to prevent. The boarding contracts 
are often let to boarding companies that agree to 
feed the men and furnish bunks for prices ranging 
(since the war) from five to eight dollars a week. 
For the privilege of boarding the workers, they agree 
to keep the gangs filled. Often in the West the men 
furnish their own beds, but private "bundle beds" 
are passing. Some companies furnish good beds, but 
the general rule is to supply a tick that may be filled 
with straw and a couple of quilts which are charged 
to the worker until he returns them. These quilts 
and blankets are often used again and again by 
diflFerent men without being cleaned during a whole 

Several boarding companies maintain free employ- 
ment agencies in Chicago, well known to the hobo 



and generally disliked. The chief complaint against 
them is that in hard times, when men are plentiful, 
there is a tendency to drop on the quality and the 
quantity of the food. In such an event the monot- 
ony of the menu and the unsavory manner in which 
food is prepared is a scandal in Hoboland. However, 
all complaints against boarding companies are not 
due to bad food. Poor cooking is another ground for 
much dissatisfaction. Efficient camp cooks are rare 
and too high priced for the average boarding company. 


The hazards the homeless man takes while at 
work in the city are far less than on the seasonal 
out-of-town work. The health problem of the 
transient "on the stem" is nevertheless serious. It 
is not so much a problem of work conditions as of 
hotels and lodging accommodations and restaurants. 

The cheap lodging-houses and hotels in Chicago 
are under the surveillance of the Chicago Depart- 
ment of Health. The department has done much 
to keep down contagion and to raise the standards of 
these places. Infectious diseases have been more 
rare here than in hotels in the Loop. These hotels 
survived the influenza epidemics as well as any in the 
city. There has been a gradual rise in the standards 
of health and sanitation of the hotels and lodging- 
houses, but just how much this is due to the watchful 
care of the Department of Health cannot be said. 
Other factors, such as business competition, may also 
have entered in to improve conditions. 

In many respects the cheap workingmen's hotels 
still fall far below the standards set by law. Indeed, 
if all of them lived up to the letter of the law in every 



respect, many would find it unprofitable to operate. 
These hotels are in buildings that were erected for 
other purposes, buildings that cannot be adequately 
made over to accommodate comfortably hundreds 
of men. 

The problem of ventilation is present in the older 
hotels for men. In some corners, in hallways and 
isolated rooms, there is never any circulation of air. 
The smells accumulate from day to day so that the 
guest on entering a room is greeted by a variety of 
odors to which each of his predecessors has con- 

The following statement of an investigator indi- 
cates what is one of the most objectionable features 
of the cheap hotel. 

The lack of adequate toilet facilities is deplorable. In one 
hotel I found two toilets for one hundred and eighty men and 
in another seven for three hundred and eighty. Some of the 
toilets have absolutely no outside ventilation, opening on sleeping 
rooms. Some of them are located in halls with no partition 
separating them from sleeping rooms and are a source of foul and 
nauseating odors.^ 

With respect to wash basins and bath facilities the 
condition is no better. Many do not even have hot 
water. In some places from twenty to forty men use 
the same wash bowl. 

The Department of Health has taken an active 
part in the campaign against vermin, and co-operates 
whenever a complaint is made. Their task seems 
hopeless since the patrons are so transient and so 
frequently carry vermin from one place to another. 
The very buildings are often breeding places for 
bedbugs, lice, and roaches. 

1 George S. Sobel, Report to Committee^ summer, 1922. 




If the homeless man becomes sick or injured while 
at work he likely will be cared for by the hospital 
maintained by the industry. But he is in dire dis- 
tress when he has no job and is in need of medical 
attention. Occasionally men without funds go to 
private physicians and not infrequently they get free 
treatment, but the traditional and easier method of 
meeting such situations is to go to an institution. 
Chicago, with its numerous hospitals and medical 
colleges, is a Mecca for the sick and the afflicted of the 
''floating fraternity." Homeless men come some- 
times several hundred miles for treatment to this 
great healing center of trampdom. They have no 
scruples against entering an institution as a charity 
patient. To them it is not chanty, but something 
due to the sick. 


Venereal disease and ailments growing out of 
venereal disease play a considerable role among the 
tramp population. The Chicago Health Depart- 
ment on the basis of the medical examination of 
inmates of the House of Correction estimates that 
lo per cent of the homeless men are venereally 
infected.^ This is double the rate of infection found 
in drafted men.^ 

The transient does not take venereal disease 
seriously. He takes no precautions to protect him- 
self after exposure. Necessity forces him out on 
some job where he must work, sometimes even in an 

^ Letter from Chicago Health Department to Committee on Homeless 


' U.S. Surgeon General's Office, Dejects Found in Drafted Men. 



active stage of infection. Often he tries to treat 
himself with remedies recommended by druggists or 
friends. Once the transient submits to treatment in 
a hospital or by a physician he will seldom continue 
it after the active stage of his case has been passed. 

Along the "stem," sex perversion is not infre- 
quent and occasionally from such contacts infections 
occur. Embarrassing as it is for the homeless man 
to apply to a hospital or clinic for treatment for 
social disease, it is doubly so when thus infected. 
That such cases are not numerous is true, but they 
do exist, and they provide an answer to the pervert 
who holds that homosexuality is safe from disease.^ 


Practically all homeless men drink when liquor 
is a.vailable. The only sober moments for many 
hobos and tramps are when they are without funds.^ 
The majority, however, are periodic drinkers who 
have sober periods of a week, a month or two, or 

^Unpublished Document 87 is a statement from Dr. Ben L. Reitman, 
based upon cases in his practice of veneral infection caused by homosexual 

2 It is of interest to note the findings of the study of 2,000 men in connec- 
tion with the Municipal Lodging House of New York City, 1914: 

"Of 1,482 men who made statements regarding their habits, 1,292 — 
approximately 9 out of every 10 — said they drank alcoholic liquors. Six hun- 
dred and fifty-seven or 44 per cent said that they drank excessively; 635, or 
43 per cent, said that they drank moderately; and 190, or 13 per cent, claimed 
to be total abstainers. 

"Of the 2,000 who were given a medical examination, 775, or 39 per cent, 
were diagnosed as suffering from alcoholism. According to Dr. James Alexander 
Miller, these 'figures probably do not represent by any means the number of 
individuals who were alcoholic .... but rather indicate only the number 
who manifested acute evidence at the time of investigation.'" — From the 
Report of the Advisory Social Service Committee oj the Municipal Lodging House, 
pp. 9-22. New York: September, 191 5. 

Here we have in a few words a cross-section of the drinking population 
among the homeless men in New York where conditions are not materially 
different and where the population is essentially the same as in Hobohemia. 



even a year. These are the men who often work all 
summer with the avowed purpose of going to some 
lodging-house and living quietly during the winter, 
but usually they find themselves in the midst of a 
drunken debauch before they have been in town more 
than a day or two. Rarely does one meet a man 
among migratory workers who does not indulge in 
an occasional " spree " ; the teetotalers are few indeed. 

The homeless man on a spree usually drinks as 
long as his money lasts, and then he usually employs 
all the devices at his command to get money to 
prolong the debauch. For the time being he will 
disregard all other wants. After he sobers up and 
finds himself sick, weak, and nervous, his plight is a 
sad one. He has no appetite for the only food he is 
able to buy and the food he craves he cannot afford. 
He is too weak and shaky to work, and too disheart- 
ened to beg. In summer he can go to the parks or 
the docks and sleep it off. Getting drunk in winter 
means more or less exposure for these men, and their 
sobering up not infrequently takes place in the hospi- 
tal — or in jail. In view of these after-effects, drink- 
ing is more serious for the homeless man than for 
any other. 

Chronic or periodic drunkenness with its accom- 
panying exposure leaves a stamp on the constitution 
of the homeless man that is not easily erased. It 
aggravates any latent weaknesses that he may have, 
and if he does not go to the hospital after a debauch 
with lung trouble, nervous diseases, heart trouble, or 
rheumatism, he is at least lowering his resistance to 
these and other diseases. The man who survives best 
spends long periods on the job and only occasionally 
visits the city. 



When the amount of exposure, the extent of dis- 
sipation, and the malnutrition that falls to the lot 
of the homeless man are taken into consideration, it 
is remarkable that he is as free from sickness as he 
is. The fact that he is outdoors much of the time 
may have something to do with this. 


Disease, physical disability, and insanitary living 
conditions seem to be, as things are, the natural and 
inevitable consequences of the migratory risk-taking 
and irregular life of the homeless man. These 
effects of his work and life upon his physical constitu- 
tion will be considered by many the most appalling 
of all the problems affecting the hobo and the tramp. 
Municipal provision and philanthropic effort have 
been and will continue to be directed to the treat- 
ment of his diseases and defects and to the improve- 
ment of his living conditions. The efficiency of the 
homeless man as a worker and his chance of regain- 
ing his lost economic and social status depend upon 
his physical rehabilitation. A clearing house for 
the homeless man when established should, therefore, 
include as one of its activities facilities for diagnosis 
of the needs, medical, vocational, social, of each 

The living conditions of the homeless man, 
although revolting to the public, are intolerable to 
him, chiefly as a symbol of his degradation. 
Lodging-house sanitation and personal hygiene are 
of minor import, in his thinking, as compared with 
working conditions, or, for that matter, with the 
problems of his social and poHtical status, to be 
discussed in the next two chapters. 



TRAMPING is a man's game. Few women are 
ever found on the road. The inconveniences 
and hazards of tramping prevent it. Women do 
wander from city to city but convention forbids them 
to ride the roads and move about as men do. One 
tramp who had traveled 8,000 miles in six months 
said: "I even saw two women on the road, and last 
summer I saw a woman beating her way in a box 

Tramping is a man's game. Few pre-adolescent 
boys are tramps. They do not break away perma- 
nently until later in their teens. How does the 
absence of women and children affect the life of the 
migratory worker ^ What difference would it make 
if tramps traveled like gypsies, taking their women 
and children with them ^ How does the absence of 
women and children affect the fantasy and the 
reveries and eventually the behavior of the homeless 
man ? 

The majority of homeless men are unmarried. 
Those who are married are separated, at least tem- 
porarily, from their families.^ Most homeless men in 
the city are older than the average man on the road 
and would be expected, therefore, to have had 
marital experience. They are content to live in town 
while the younger men are eager to move in the rest- 
less search for adventure and new experience. 

* Of the 1,000 men studied by Mrs. Solenberger, 74 per cent gave their 
marital status as single. Of the 400 interviewed by the writer 86 per cent stated 
that they were unmarried. Only 8 per cent of the former and 5 per cent of the 
latter survey claimed they were married. The others claimed to be widowed, 
divorced, or separated from their wives. Unpublished Document 142. 





The homeless man has not always been homeless. 
Like most of us, he was reared in a home and is so 
far a product of home life. He enters upon the life 
of the road in his late teens or early twenties. He 
brings with him, as a rule, the habits and memories 
gained in the more stable existence in the family and 
community. Frequently it has been his conflict 
with, and rebellion against, that more stable exist- 
ence that set him on the road. 

Most of these men have mothers living. If their 
mothers are dead, they speak of them reverently. 
The mission workers often direct their appeals to 
these early memories, "the religion of our mothers." 
The only correspondence that some homeless men 
carry on is with their mothers. Some of them only 
write one or two letters a year but these are letters 
home. In most of the missions there is a sign with 
the inscription, "When Did You Write to Mother 
Last ?" 

Other women may, and sometimes do, exert a 
wholesome influence upon him. He is often pro- 
foundly touched by the women of the missions who 
stand on the street corner and plead with him for his 
soul's sake. Young and attractive women invite 
more attention because of their sex than their 
message. Though he may have little or no interest 
in the religious appeal, feeling for these women is 
generally idealized and wholesome. The missions 
have learned the value of young and attractive 
women and employ them extensively as evangelists. 

Women in places where the hobo has worked or 
boarded, generally older women, frequently take a 



mother's interest in him. "Mother" Greenstein, 
who keeps a restaurant on South State Street^ is the 
idol of a great many "bos." She never turns a 
hungry man away. She is known far and near by 
tramps and hobos. Many men know her by reputa- 
tion who have never seen her. 

Another woman who has become well known to 
many homeless men is "Aunt" Nina S. She kept a 
rooming-house for years and always gave any man 
who came to her in winter some place to sleep. She 
could always find room. Her only compensation was 
the good will of the homeless man. 

51. Another woman who has won a place in the hearts of 
men of West Madison Street is an old lady whom the "bos" 
call "Mother." She does not give them anything; on the con- 
trary she begs from them but she takes a motherly interest in all 
the "boys." She is against anyone who makes life hard for 
them and hates the bootleggers, the gypsies, the gamblers, and 
all who exploit them. She will denounce and curse anyone who 
dares to call them "bums" in her presence. Her hobby is cats. 
She spends several hours a day going up and down the street 
feeding cats. All the "boys" are tolerant of all cats on the street 
because they belong to "Mother." He is a poor "bo," indeed, 
who will not spare "Mother" a dime now and then for milk 
for her " kitties." 

When the tramp works he usually goes out on 
some job where there are no women. He may spend 
six months in a lumber camp and not see a woman 
during all that time. He may work for a whole 
summer, along with hundreds like himself, and never 
meet a woman. Sometimes there are women on 
such jobs, but they are generally the wives of the 
bosses and have no interest in the common workers. 
Children in such families frequently strike up a more 
intimate acquaintance with them. The only com- 



pany for such a man is men, and men who are living 
the same unnatural life as himself. 

There are jobs open to the homeless man that are 
more wholesome. Sometimes he finds himself in 
communities where he is neither isolated nor an out- 
cast. The tramp is not often interested in small- 
town or country associations, because they generally 
tend to terminate seriously and he does not want to 
be taken seriously. If he has the money to spend, 
and he usually has while he is working, he can meet 
women, but he meets them in town when he has 
leisure. He may have a hundred reasons for going 
to town, but the major reason, whether he admits it 
or not, is to meet women. The types of women he 
meets depends upon his personality, his taste, and 
his purse. In this he is hke the soldier or the sailor. 

The younger hobos, especially those who are on 
the road and off again by turns, are able at times to 
save money and put on a "front." These younger 
men are frequently able, therefore, to get into the 
social life of the communities in which they find 
themselves. When they are in town with money 
to spend they *'go the limit" while it lasts, and then 
they go out to work and save up another "stake." 
Usually they have a number of women on their 
correspondence lists. As they go from one city to 
another they make new acquaintances and forget 
the old friends. Usually they are as transient in 
their attachments to women as to their jobs. 

Many of these younger men ultimately settle 
down, but they do not always have the ability to 
make permanent attachments though they may try 
again and again. They invariably seek greener 
pastures. Wherever they are, they will be found 



burning the candles at both ends/' As long as they 
are young and attractive they have little difficulty 
in finding girls who are willing to assist them in 
scattering their cash. 

Among these are the show girls who sing or dance 
in the cheap burlesque theaters on South State and 
West Madison streets. Thousands of hobos, who 
never can hope to come in personal contact with 
chorus girls, throng the cheap playhouses of Hobo- 
hemia. The titillations of a State Street vaudeville 
are vulgar and inexpensive. The men, many of 
them, at least, would not and could not appreciate 
a higher grade of entertainment. 

The hobo has few ideal associations with women. 
Since most of them are unmarried, or living apart 
from their wives, their sex relations are naturally 
illicit. The tramp is not a marrying man, though he 
does enter into transient free unions with women 
when the occasion offers. There are many women 
in the larger cities who have no scruples against 
living with a man during the winter, or for even a 
year or two, without insisting upon the marriage rite. 
They are not prostitutes, not even "kept women." 

52. M. lived with Mrs. S. N. for four or five years, off and 
on, whenever he was in town. What little money he earned he 
brought home, though he took money from Mrs. N. more fre- 
quently. She worked and usually when she came home very 
tired he would have the house work done and a meal ready. 
When she was sick he waited on her. He Hstened to her troubles 
and was patient and good natured. In winter he always got up 
and made the fires. She was always jealous of him and when he 
would leave town for a month or two she fancied that it was to 
get away from her and to live with some other woman. Finally 
they separated, but they are still good friends. He is living with 
another woman and she with another man. Of late he is only 
in Chicago in winter. 



The tramp who succeeds in hving in idleness 
with a woman in such a companionship considers 
himself fortunate. The woman who can find a man 
like M. is often content, provided he is faithful to 
her, although she prefers a man who can be depended 
upon to earn a little money. The women who enter 
these free unions have the least to gain and the most 
to lose. The general experience of women who keep 
their "men" is that when they are in the direst need 
the men will desert them; on the other hand, when 
the men are in need they will return. 

A certain class of detached men makes a practice 
of getting into the good graces of some prostitute for 
the winter. The panderer is not a characteristic 
tramp type, but certain homeless men are not averse 
to becoming pimps for a season. These attachments 
between homeless men and prostitutes are often quite 
real. Some of them even become permanent, others 
last a year or two, but most of them are only of a 
few months' duration. While they do persist they 
are often more or less sentimental. 


Most hobos and tramps because of drink, un- 
presentable appearance, or unattractive personal- 
ity, do not succeed in establishing permanent, or 
even quasi-permanent, relationships with women. 
For them the only accessible women are prostitutes 
and the prostitutes who solicit the patronage of the 
homeless man are usually forlorn and bedraggled 
creatures who have not been able to hold out in the 
fierce competition in higher circles. 

These women, otherwise so isolated and so hard 
pressed by their exigent wants, do not live on the 



"main stem," but adjacent to it. They are conven- 
iently located so that even the "floater/' who comes 
to town with a few months' savings, has no trouble 
in finding them. The upper-class prostitutes keep 
men on the street getting the business for them. 
Pandering is an art, and many of these pimps have 
become adepts in catching the men who come to 
town with "rolls." Only a small part of the com- 
merce of the homeless man is with the "live ones." 
He usually has so little money that he is forced to 
bargain for the attention of the lowest women that 
walk the streets. 

Men with "rolls" are scarce in Hobohemia. One 
man met on West Madison Street said: "I came in 
last night with $380 and now I'm flatter'n a pancake. 
I didn't even get a pair of sox. Hallelujah! I'm a 
bum." He was still too drunk to realize the situa- 
tion, but next day he was uncertain whether he had 
been robbed by a woman or by a "jack roller." He 
did not even know whether he had been robbed or had 
lost his money. He had worked all winter and spring 
on a ranch near Casper, Wyoming, and had come to 
town with a trainload of cattle."" It is seldom that 
the second-rate prostitute gets hold of so much money. 

From these "second raters" the tramp is doubly 
liable to infection. Most of them have been diseased 
at some time while some of them are infected all the 
time. More than one-third of them, according tov 
Dr. Ben L. Reitman, of the Chicago Health Depart-l 
ment, are constantly spreading infection. The 
homeless man is well aware of the risk he runs 
when he patronizes the prostitute, but he does not 
realize the gravity of the danger. 

* Unpublished Document 114. 




All Studies indicate that homosexual practices 
among homeless men are widespread. They are 
especially prevalent among men on the road among 
whom there is a tendency to idealize and justify the 
practice. Homosexuality is not more common 
among tramps than among other one-sex groups. 
In the prison and jail population, the authorities 
are forced to wage a constant warfare against it. 
The same condition prevails also in the navy or 
merchant marine, and, to a lesser extent, in the army.^ 

Among tramps there are, it seems, two types of 
perverts. There are those who are subjects, in the 
words of Havelock Ellis, "of a congenital predisposi- 
tion, or complexus of abnormalities." Ellis contends 
that certain individuals, different temperamentally 
and physically from the rest of us, are not attracted 
by the opposite sex but are easily attracted by their 
own sex. Most of them are men who have developed 
from childhood feminine traits and tastes, and they 
may be regarded as predisposed to homosexuality. 
The second group is composed of individuals who 
have temporarily substituted homosexual for hetero- 
sexual behavior. Most of these perverts by conver- 
sion are men who, under the pressure of sex isolation, 
have substituted boy for woman as the object of their 
desires. This is chiefly because boys are accessible 
while women are not. 


The boy does not need to remain long in hobo 
society to learn of homosexual practices. The 
average boy on the road is invariably approached 

* Iwan Bloch, Sexual Life of Our Times ^ p. 540. 



by men who get into his good graces. Some 
''homos" claim that every boy is a potential homo- 
sexual. This is without doubt an exaggeration as 
well as a defense, for not all boys are subject to 
persuasion. Sometimes boys will travel alone or with 
other boys to avoid the approaches of older men. 
Often boys will refrain from traveling with adults, 
even well-behaved adults, because they realize that 
they will be under suspicion. It is not uncommon 
to hear a boy who is seen traveling with an older man 
spoken of as the "wife" or "woman." It is only 
natural that many boys fear to be alone with adult 

53. The case of M. is typical. He is a sixteen year old boy 
who travels alone. He is a handsome lad; small for his age and 
neat in appearance. He is just the type of boy that would 
attract the average "wolf" who idealizes pink cheeks and an 
innocent appearance. He travels alone because of his fear of 
"wolves." He had not been away from home three weeks and 
he says that he has been accosted several times. Although he 
had been in Chicago but a day he had received advances from 
two men who tried to persuade him to go to a room. 

Many devices are employed by them to place the 
lad in their debt or under their protection. If 
methods of persuasion do not work, force is some- 
times used. One man gave a brakeman a dollar to put 
a boy off the train at a lonely siding. Another man 
learned which direction a certain boy was traveling 
and followed him from town to town, "accidentally" 
meeting him at each place. The lad was without 
funds, and so was the man, but the latter was able to 
beg and usually had a "lump" when he met the boy 
and he always divided. Another man led a boy a 
mile or so out in the country to a place where he 



claimed he had worked during the previous year and 
where he knew they could both get something to eat. 

Another common ruse is to take a boy to a room 
or a box car to sleep. The man suggests that he 
knows a clean car in a safe place with plenty of straw 
or paper on the floor. In a big city the boy is often 
enticed to a room for the same purpose. There are 
many cases on record in the Chicago courts.^ 

54. A. F., a boy sixteen years old, was being held in a room 
on West Ohio Street to which he had been enticed for immoral 
purposes by John Mc J. M. was arrested on complaint of one F. 
He was found in company with another boy in a room in the 
E. Hotel on South State Street. John was held for trial on 
13,000 bonds which he could not furnish. He died in jail waiting 
for trial. 

55. C. J. This man worked on a boat plying between Michi- 
gan ports and Chicago. He persuaded a Michigan boy whose 
home was near Lansing but who had run away and was loafing 
about the docks on the lake front, to come with him to Chicago. 
He promised to help the boy get a job, etc. He took him to a 
room on South State Street where he held him for three days 
and had improper relations with him. Prior to his apprehension 
he had turned the boy over to another man for the same purpose. 

[ Josiah Flynt, who was familiar with tramp life, 
j seems to be of the opinion that most boys are forced 
into the practice. However, it does not seem prob- 
able that force is so extensively employed as is some- 
times believed. These accounts serve as a defense 
reaction on their part, yet we cannot say that 
such forced initiations do not occur. But even 
those who at the outset were the victims of "strong 
arm" methods often become reconciled to the 
practice and continue it. Often they become pro- 
miscuous in their relations and many of them even 
commercialize themselves. 

^ Unpublished Document 32. 



Writers on the sex behavior of men and boys often 
refer to the relationship as it exists among tramps as 
a sort of slavery. By slavery is meant that boys are 
held in bondage to men and forced to steal and beg 
for them. This condition may exist in isolated 
instances but it is not general. It is even suggested 
by some authorities that there exists some sort of 
organization among tramps through which boys 
have been " caught " and kept in servitude. The best 
evidence that such an organization does not exist is 
the fact that perverted sex practices are frowned upon 
by the tramps themselves. 

The court records show, however, that not infre- 
quently boys are held in rooms, or taken to lonely 
buildings, or out on the lake front, or in the parks, 
but the case that gets into court is seldom one in 
which both parties were free agents. If there is 
slavery in these latter cases it is slavery to their pas- 
sions, or to a state of mind growing out of their habits 
and their isolation. 

The duration of an intimacy of this kind in the 
city is seldom more than a few days. On the road, 
however, the "partnership" may last for weeks. 
Whereas, out of town the pair can travel as compan- 
ions aiding each other, in the city they can get along 
better alone. It is difficult for partners to remain 
together long in the city, especially if one has money 
and the other none, or if one drinks and the other 
does not. Living in a metropolis is a problem the 
tramp can solve better alone. 


Tramp perverts argue that homosexual inter- 
course is "clean'* and that homosexuals are less liable 



to become infected with venereal disease. The Vice 
Commission of Chicago, in its report for 191 1, states 
that homosexual individuals "are not known in their 
true character to any extent by the physicians 
because of the fact that their habits do not, as a rule, 
produce bodily disease/'^ 

It is also urged by perverts that in the homosexual 
relation there is the absence of the eternal complica- 
tions in which one becomes involved with women. 
They want to avoid intimacies that complicate the 
free life to which they are by temperament and habit 
committed. Homosexual attachments are generally 
short lived, but they are real while they last. Some- 
times a man will assume a priority over a boy and 
will even fight to maintain it. The investigator dur- 
ing his study of this phase of the tramp problem 
made two unsuccessful attempts to step between 
men and their boys, or "lambs." In one case his 
interference was resented by both the man and the 
boy, but in the other it was rather enjoyed by the 
boy, though he would not be separated from his 

The investigator met S., a veteran "wolf" on 
Madison Street. When he was asked why his face 
was so badly bruised he said that he and another man 
had fought over a boy. "He was trying to get my 
kid into a room with him." He claimed that he hit 
the man and ran but that he was arrested. He was 
held over night in the Desplaines Street Station on 
a charge of disorderly conduct, but was discharged 
the next morning. What hurt him most was not 
the night in jail or his bruised face but the fact that 
the other man had left town with the boy. 

' The Social Evil in Chicago, pp. 296-97. 



In his sex life, as in his whole existence, the home- 
less man moves in a vicious circle. Industrially 
inadequate, his migratory habits render him the 
more economically inefficient. A social outcast, he 
still wants the companionship which his mode of 
life denies him. Debarred from family life, he 
hungers for intimate associations and affection. The 
women that he knows, with few exceptions, are 
repulsive to him. Attractive women live in social 
worlds infinitely remote from his. With him the 
fundamental wishes of the person for response and 
status have been denied expression. The preva- 
lence of sexual perversion among the homeless men ^ v 
is, therefore, but the extreme expression of their un- 
natural sex life. Homosexual practices arise almost 
inevitably in similar situations of sex isolation. A 
constructive solution for the problems of the sex life 
of the homeless man strikes deeper into our social 
life than this study can carry us. 



WHERE are we to place the hobo as a citizen ? 
What is his actual status as a member of 
society or as a functioning unit in the state ? Where 
does he stand in relation to organized society and its 
laws and its mores. 

The public dismisses these questions by assign- 
ing the hobo and the tramp to the class of "undesir- 
ables/' This reaction of the public is, of course, 
emotional and superficial, based partly on the shabby 
and unkempt appearance of the men of the road and 
partly on their reputation as beggars, vagrants, 
drunkards, and petty thieves. Any study of the 
homeless man as a citizen must go farther and take 
into account such factors as nativity, naturaliza- 
tion, and patriotism; legal residence and the right 
and opportunity to vote; obedience to law; and his 
political aspirations. 


Students of hobos and tramps have been struck 
by the fact that the great majority of homeless 
men are native-born Americans. Mrs. Solenberger 
found that of i,ooo, 623 were native born. Of the 
400 tramps interviewed by the writer during the 
summer of 1921, only 61 were foreign born and 23 
of these had taken out naturalization papers. From 
these and other studies it appears that from 60 to 
90 per cent of hobos and tramps are native born. 

The tramp is an American product. The foreign- 
born in this group are chiefly of the older immigra- 
tion. Among these. Englishmen, proverbial as 




"globe-trotters," are conspicuous. The number of 
homeless men from the newer immigration is small, 
and the individuals who are found in the tramp and 
hobo group seem often out of place. 

One test of patriotism is military service. The 
writer found that of the 400 he interviewed, 92 had 
seen military service. This figure is high, since there 
were only 183 men of the whole group between the 
ages of twenty and thirty-four. These men were 
listed in 1921 and would include many who were not 
in the draft age when the allotments were drawn in 
1 91 8. There were of the 400, 58 who were probably 
under the draft age in 191 8. When we consider the 
proportion of physically and mentally unfit, it seems 
that this figure is high.' 


What is the status of the hobo as a voter ? He 
seldom remains in one place long enough to acquire 
legal residence. His work, because of its seasonal 
character, often takes him away from his legal resi- 
dence just at the time when he should be there to 
register or vote. Whether he has a desire to cast his 
ballot or not, he is seldom able to do so. 

A canvass of thirty-five Hobohemian hotels in 
Chicago has shown that about a third of the guests 
are voters. In March, 1923, there were 3,029 
registered voters from these hotels, which have a 
total capacity of 9,480. Many of these, though they 
are in the city only in winter or for a few weeks at 

' It must be remembered that the 400 include tramps In transit who are, 
perhaps, the better and most fit of all the types. At least there would be in 
such a group a greater number of able-bodied men than in any 400 selected at 
random in the "stem" of one of our cities. Again, 400 is not a sufficient number 
to permit more than a tentative conclusion. 



a time, manage to maintain a residence here and, 
if they are in the city during an election, they vote. 

Charges are even made that tramps and hobos 
sell their votes, that they often engage in "repeat- 
ing." There is not as much ground for such charges 
as one would expect. The average tramp does not 
have the courage to take the chances that the 
"repeater" must expect to run. He realizes also 
that he is always under more or less suspicion even 
when he is going straight, and this serves as a brake. 

Homeless men as a group make much of the fact 
that they are excluded from the ballot, and they re- 
mind all who have the patience to listen that the exclu- 
sion is unjust because they perform an important and 
legitimate function in the labor world. They seem 
to protest against their exclusion more than to de- 
mand the ballot. One man said that he did not know 
if he would vote if he had a chance, "but it's the 
principle of the thing." 

The International Brotherhood Welfare Associa- 
tion has repeatedly stood for some form of universal 
suffrage that would permit migratory workers to 
vote, regardless of the length of their residence in a 

During the latter part of May, 1922, a convention of the 
Farmer-Labor Party was held in Chicago. Certain members 
of the hobo group failed in the attempt to get a resolution 
through the convention in favor of giving the vote to migratory 
workers. Certain delegates feared that the hobo was too irre- 
sponsible to use the ballot. The farmer element in the Farmer- 
Labor Party resented the idea of giving support to the tramp 
group by whom they had been harassed so much in the harvest 
fields. Nor is the I.W.W. particularly interested in "votes for 
the hobos," because in their opinion the ballot is at best an indi- 
rect method of accompHshing what can be easier secured by direct 



Forty-eight of the 400 homeless men studied by 
the writer claimed to have voted in the presidential 
election of 1920. 

56. One of the men interviewed in this study said: "I hap- 
pened to drop into Salt Lake the last day of the registration so I 
got my name on the dotted line. I swore I had been in the state 
a year. They couldn't prove I wasn't, so it passed. I'd been 
in ten or fifteen states that year. Well, when election came I was 
working in Bingham. My boss was short of help and didn't 
want me to lay off to vote, so I quit and went to Salt Lake. Got 
there just before the polls closed." 

One man said that he beat his way 1,000 miles to 
cast his ballot. Most of the 48, however, had voted 
because at election time they were living in or near 
their legal residence. What was the attitude of the 
352 who did not vote ? The following are the reasons 
given (with reference to 1920 election):^ 

No desire to vote and no legal residence 28 

Having legal residence but no desire to vote 54 

No legal residence but desire to vote 129 

Under twenty-one 88 

Aliens 38* 

In military service 9 

Disfranchised 2 

Not known 4 

Total 352 

* Sixty-one foreign-born in 400; 23 naturalized. 

There were 28 men both ineligible to vote and 
indifferent to the ballot. The group of 54 who had no 
desire to vote included men who were at home, or 
near their legal residence, and could have voted had 
they been interested. The two listed as disfran- 

* From an unpublished study by the author of 400 tramps, Document 115. 



chised were both men who had been dishonorably 
discharged from the navy. Both were under twenty- 
one and had enhsted under the pressure of wartime 
enthusiasm. One of these was not interested in vot- 
ing and the other said that the vote was a joke 


The migratory worker is not saddled with respon- 
sibility for law and order. As he makes his way 
about the country, he is unincumbered. He has 
nothing to lose and nothing to protect but his per- 
son, and that he protects best by constantly moving. 
The homeless man has no interest in common with 
the settled man of the community who has attach- 
ments and property, and at whose expense he often 
lives. The migratory worker, for a time, may be 
physically a part of a community, but he actually 
does not become absorbed into its social life. The 
wanderer who fails to win a place in the life of a 
community often takes his own course. This 
course is sometimes in harmony with the interests 
of the community, but more often counter to them, 
and he fails under the surveillance of the law. 

To the tramp and the hobo the police are the 
guardian angels of organized society, created to 
protect the community against criminals and 
migrants. To him there are two varieties of 
police — civil and private. The uniformed upholder 
of the law, the civil police, is given the uncomplimen- 
tary epithet, "harness bull." The plain-clothes men 
are called "dicks," "fly cops," and "stool pigeons." 
The private police who protect the property of the 
railroad are held in even lower contempt. 




The chief job of the "dicks" is to keep the "bos" 
off the trains. The private poHce are unpopular, 
not only among homeless men, but also among the 
employees of the railroads. Brakemen and switch- 
men will often aid tramps in their effort to avoid the 
police. Railroad police must often contend with a 
lack of co-operation by the civil police. The town 
police, or "town clown" as he is called, may order 
the tramps to leave on the "next train," while the 
railroad police may be making every effort to prevent 
their riding the trains. The town police are not 
anxious to fill the jail; they prefer that the transients 
move on; they reason that the railroad should take 
away what the railroad brought. 

The railroad policeman shows results, not by the 
number of convictions as the civil police, but by his 
ability to keep at a minimum the number of offenses 
against railroad property. His endeavor is to put 
fear into the hearts of all trespassers on the right-of- 
way. He becomes a hunter of men, not to seize and 
detain them, but to pursue and terrorize them. He 
is to the railroad property what the scarecrow is to 
the cornfield. 

Railroad police sometimes drive men off fast- 
moving trains by throwing stones or shooting at 
them. Not infrequently they catch and maltreat a 
tramp; however, they are seldom able to get hold of 
a veteran tramp. The inexperienced man or the 
boy is more likely to be caught. These means of 
putting fear into men do not stop tramping. As they 
become fearful of the railroad "bull," they become 
more cautious, and the "bull's" problem is increas- 
ingly difficult. 




To migrants the railroad is "the tramp's tradi- 
tional highway." The tramp, however, expects 
opposition from the railroad police and even from 
the train crews; nevertheless he measures his success 
as a "boomer" by his ability to outwit this opposi- 
tion. Encounters with the railroad police are a 
favorite theme of conversation in the "jungles" and 
along the "stem." 

One man tells of being held in Hutchinson, 
Kansas, on suspicion: 

57. A bunch of us came in on a freight and started up town. 
It was about midnight and the moon was shining. We were 
sneaking along the shade of a row of box cars. A couple of men 
halted us and ordered us to come out into the light. I had a 
notion to run but one of the other fellows said they had "gats" 
and we'd better take no chances. It was a good thing we didn't 
run because we found out that a couple of men had escaped 
from the jail. All the police and a lot of the citizens had been 
drafted to find them. Most of them carried guns and nothing 
would have suited them better than to have had some one to 
shoot at. 

They rounded up about ten "bos" out of the yards and took 
us to a room in the depot where they held us for about an hour 
till one of the guards came from the jail. He did not see the 
escaped men in the crowd so we were turned loose. The rail- 
road "bull" ordered us to walk out of town. We walked out a 
ways and then sneaked back and caught a freight. 

I think we got off easy. I had a buddy once who was held a 
week until the police could get a picture. He was caught by 
the railroad "bull" and turned over to the "town clown." 
They are always sorry if they can't get someting on a "bo" 
they hold. 

Youths in their first adventures on the road accept 
with zest the conflict with the private police. A 



student who made a practice of "working the 
harvest" each summer gives the following statement: 

58. My first experience with a bull was at Marshalltown, 
Iowa. I had been selling books up near Mason City, Iowa, and 
after three weeks of that loathsome occupation, I threw my 
prospectus into the ditch and started for home. Late one night 
I caught an express train on the Northwestern from Ames, Iowa, 
bound for Chicago, and rode from there to Marshalltown; 
unfortunately the train pulled into the station very slowly and 
the long string of lights on the station platform shed a great deal 
of light on the train. I started to get off when a rough voice 
cursing loudly told me to get off on that side. He took me by the 
shoulder and asked me what in hell I was doing riding on that 
train. "Don't you know," he said, "what we do with fellows 
who ride the front ends of these trains ?" He gave me a kick and 
told me to get out of the yards. It was my first encounter with 
the "bulls" and I have since learned that "bull" tactics are very 
much the same. 

Another time I crawled off the train into the waiting arms of 
a Rock Island "bull" in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He showed me 
his star and searched me over carefully, feeling every lump in my 
clothing. During the search he said, "Will you give me all I find 
on you ?" The question rather startled me but I quickly 
replied, "Yes." Finding nothing, he seemed disappointed and 
said, "I can't understand why you haven't more money on you! 
What are you, anyway ?" I told him I was a college student 
looking for work. "The hell you are!" he sneered, "you're a 
Weary Willie, now get out of here, quick." 

At Grand Island some fifty of us tried to ride a merchandise 
freight out of the yards, when an energetic "bull" pulled him- 
self out of a car and waved a revolver wildly warning all not to 
get on. It was a long freight and the men strung themselves 
up and down the track the full length of it. In spite of his 
efforts, several got aboard. My companion and I were quite 
close to him and made no effort to get on. 

My next encounter occurred at Bureau, Illinois, a division 
point on the Rock Island. There were four of us on the tender 
(behind the engine), my room mate and I and two lads who had 
jumped on some miles down the line. They had been jumping 
on and off and having a good time generally. Both of them had 



on white shirts and could be easily recognized by the train men. 
At Bureau a rough looking " bull " poked his head over the tender, 
waved a gun, cursed madly and told us to get down from there. 
We were lying flat on one corner and I did not believe he had 
seen us. The two boys did as they were told while I held my 
room mate down and told him not to move. I heard him 
swearing at the boys as the train pulled out. 

With a companion I left a Rock Island freight one afternoon 
to get a drink of water. We came back to see our train far up 
the track toward Des Moines. I noticed by my table that an 
express train would soon be in. My companion was a long, lean 
individual, a bluffing, blustering type probably weighing about 
175 pounds. A "bull" was waiting for us at Valley Junction, 
just outside of Des Moines. He pulled us off" and marched us 
out in front of all the passengers and into the station. We both 
noticed that we had climbed a mail train and that our future was 
not very bright. The station agent was not in and I sized 
Mr. "Bull" up as he searched us. He was a young fellow, not 
over twenty-five and did not look nearly as hard as he talked. 
My companion was as pale as a sheet and would say nothing. 
I talked to him as best I could, and after scaring us to the best of 
his ability he finally turned us loose, actually buying us a ticket on 
the auto bus to Des Moines. He acted almost human toward us. 

A man, prominent in Hobohemia as a soap-boxer, 
recites this experience out of a great number that he 
has had with railroad and other private police. 

59. I was travehng in Indiana with a man by the name of 
Sullivan, known around the country as "Sully." We got off 
at Flora, a railroad town in Indiana. It was cold and the town 
was "hostile" because so many "bos" had been there that the 
people were hardened to them. We knew better than to hang 
around the railroad yards so we decided to go out of town a ways 
and build a fire to keep warm while we waited for a train. We 
started out but Sully decided to return and learn from the switch- 
man when a train would be leaving. I said that I would go out 
along the track and build a wind break with some old ties and 
make a fire. 

I dragged some ties together and had the wind break up by 
the time Sully returned. I had the fire going too and was taking 



off my shoes. I had stepped in some water while dragging ties 
and my feet were wet and cold. 

Everything went fine for about half an hour. I was drying 
my shoes and socks and Sully and I were talking about where we 
were going and what to do. It was at the time of the Steel 
Strike, and Sully was planning on going up there to get a job 
as a "scab herder." He said that by that means he would get 
in with the company and that he could work some "sabotage" 
in the interest of the workers. At that time I was traveling and 
selling literature, and holding street meetings in the interests of 
the I.B.W.A. 

All of a sudden something hit me in the back between the 
shoulder blades. I looked around quickly and there were two 
" bulls." We were on railroad property and I knew we were in for 
it. Sully ducked and went over the fence. I had my shoes off 
and couldn't run. One of them gave me another tap on the 
back with a black jack. "What are you here for.?" "I am 
drying my shoes," was the only answer I could think of. As I 
hurried to get my shoes on one of them slapped me on the side 
of the head. I jumped and ran while they cursed me and told 
me never to let them catch me again. I met Sully an hour later 
and together we cursed all railroad "bulls" as cowards and 

Sometime after that I was told by a friend that Sully was an 
employee of the Pinkerton agency. I did not believe it but 
before a year was out I heard it from two or three sources. I 
made an effort to find out and I learned it was true; that he was 
in their employ at the time we got chased. Then it came to me 
why he went back to talk to the switchmen and how he got away 
without being hit. He was traveling with me because he was 
trying to get a fine on me as an agitator. 

These stories are typical of those that any expe- 
rienced tramp can tell. 

The private police "talks by hand" because it is 
the most practical method at his command. The 
argument of the club coincides most admirably with 
the mood he is in when on duty searching trains 
and keeping trespassers off" railroad property. He 



is a hunter and the tramp is his prey. If it is 
a game to the poHce, it is no less so to the tramp. 
One lad who had been caught a time or two said: 
"I get a lot of *kick' out of riding trains out of 
a place when I know the 'dicks' are trying to keep 
me off." 

When a town has a railroad policeman who is 
"hard," the fact is soon noised about. A few years 
ago, Galesburg, Illinois, was known throughout the 
country for the "bad" colored policeman who 
guarded the yards. The hobo who could tell a 
story of an encounter with the big "nigger bull" had 
an exploit to be proud of. For some time Green 
River, Wyoming, boasted a "hard bull" known to 
the "floating fraternity" as "Green River Slim." 
As the reputation of a "bad" policeman travels 
ahead, so the information about his tactics and meth- 
ods. Where he may be found, how avoided, how he 
watches the trains, are usually common knowledge 
to the average "bo" before he reaches a town. 


The Hobo News for April, 1922, reprinted an 
article "The Hobo; a Real Problem to the Rail- 
road," by T. T. Kelihor, chief special agent of the 
Illinois Central Railroad. The article was given 
space in the News in order that the hobos might see 
how the "bulls" regarded them. It was followed by 
a caustic criticism from the editor who charged that 
the writer "like the rest of his fraternity cannot 
distinguish between Hobos and Bums and Tramps 
and Yeggs." 

The railroads of this country are the chief sufferers from this 
cancerous social growth. There is no property right or other 



rights of the railroad that the modern hobo feels called upon 
to consider or respect. Millions of dollars' worth of rail- 
way property and merchandise in transit are destroyed and 
stolen annually by this class. The actual value of merchan- 
dise stolen is only a small part of the loss of merchandise 
in trains. 

The average hobo realizes that he is not provided with means 
of carrying away a large amount of bulky goods. Consequently 
when hobos enter a merchandise car, they break open a great 
many cases and dump or throw out the contents on the floor in 
searching for small, compact, valuable goods that they can carry 
off concealed about their persons. It often happens that they 
will not take more than I50.00 value in valuable articles, but 
they will destroy and damage ^500.00 worth of goods by destroy- 
ing the original containers and soiling the contents by trampling 
on them on the dirty floor of the car and otherwise damaging 

The amount of property the tramp actually steals ^ 
and destroys is not known. He probably is blamed 
for more damage than he does. Those who speak for 
the hobo class claim that most of the goods stolen 
from cars is taken by train crews who shield them- 
selves by pointing to the tramp, who is already an 
outlaw as far as the railroad is concerned, because he 
steals rides. Aside from the loss of property, Mr. 
Kelihor calls attention to the great loss of life attrib- 
uted to tramping. 

The loss of life and limb on account of hobos riding 
trains and trespassing on the right-of-way, and the 
consequent financial and economic loss to the country 
and the railroads, is appalling. The reports for all J 
railroads during 191 9 show: 

Trespassers killed. . 
Trespassers injured 






And during 1920: 

Trespassers killed 2,166 

Trespassers injured 2,362 

Total 4,528 

During 1921, on the Illinois Central and the Yazoo and 
Mississippi railroads, 98 trespassers were killed and 221 injured. 

How many of these persons killed were actually 
hobos, perhaps even the railroads could not say. To 
the railroad officials anyone is a trespasser on rail- 
road property who is not a patron or an employee. 
On the other hand, all the instances of tramps killed 
or injured on the railroad are not recorded. 

In a communication of August 2, 1922, to the 
Homeless Man Committee, W. P. Riggs, chief special 
agent of the American Express Company, says in 

On our more important exclusive trains we have inspectors 
employed to ride them for the purpose of keeping tramps and 
other unauthorized persons off such trains. As in the past we 
have suffered serious loss through such parties breaking into our 
sealed cars and robbing them. There have also been instances 
where parties under the guise of tramps beating their way around 
the country turned out to be real bandits, who would at the 
opportune time hold up the mail clerks and messengers. 

The tramp situation is the worst in this section during the 
spring, summer, and fall; yet we also have more or less trouble 
with them in winter months. 

Generally speaking, we do not receive much assistance from 
civil authorities in combatting tramps. 

J. H. Hustin, Jr., superintendent of property 
protection for the New York Central Railroad, 
writes the committee as follows: 

It is the endeavor of our police officers to keep the tramp off 
our right-of-way. Many of our freight trains on the Western 



territory are protected by police officers enroute between termi- 
nals, and it is part of their duty to keep such train riders off our 
trains. Usually the tramp is placed under arrest and taken 
before the local authorities for disposition. 

During the spring and fall we experience most of our difficul- 
ties with train riders, especially in connection with the opening 
and closing of navigation. 

In general, we receive the co-operation of the city authorities. 
When business is quiet and a large number of men are out of 
work, we obtain little direct assistance from the local police and 
courts; while, when business is good and there is little unemploy- 
ment, such co-operation is very satisfactory. 


The average man on the street, or the average 
housewife, sees in the tramp either a parasite or a 
predacious individual. The average man may admit 
that there are many migratory* men who would 
work, but he feels that most of them will not, and 
that they have neither permanent habits nor good 
intentions; they need to be watched. If the public 
opinion decrees that the town needs to be protected 
against tramps, it is the duty of the police to do it. 
There seems to be a relation between the pressure 
that the police bring to bear on the tramp and the 
pressure that the tramps impose upon the community 
which is reflected in the pressure the residents place 
on the police. In towns where vagrancy has become 
a problem, the police are very energetic in keeping 
down the number of apparently idle men. 

In small towns, especially railroad towns, through 
which many tramps move, the police are "hostile.'* 
A policeman in a Wyoming town on the Union Pacific 
Railroad asserts: "WeVe got to be hard on these 
fellows or they will eat us out of house and home in 
a week.*' In the larger towns the police are sporadic 



in their harshness. Men of the road will ask one 
another about the attitude of the police in certain 
cities. "Omaha was good the first part of the 
winter," reported a man in a circle about a camp 
fire, "I think I'll go to Chi this winter if I don't go 
to the Coast. I heard they were pretty easy on 
them there last winter." Again, "I was in Chicago 
the most of the winter. They are all right there if 
you stay on the 'stem.'" ''How has K. C. been 
lately ? I haven't been there for five years." 

The average hobo will often avoid certain towns 
because he has heard that the "bo" will not be well 
received. He will sometimes go to a town even when 
he has heard of its drastic method of treating the 
transients. A "hard" police force and a drastic 
policy of repression do not keep tramps away. It 
selects out those who are willing to run the risk. 
Timid and inexperienced men are kept away, but the 
daring and veteran tramps who cause the police the 
most trouble are not so readily frightened off. 

The police do not regard the tramp as a serious 
offender. If he steals, it is generally for something 
to eat or to wear. Every man on the road steals 
potatoes or green corn from the nearby fields, or 
fruit from the neighboring orchard, or chickens that 
stray within reach of the jungle. 

Tramps will boast about what they will do when 
times get hard and cold weather crowds them. "I 
won't starve. I worked all summer, and I won't go 
hungry this winter." This man was "broke" in 
spite of a summer's hard labor in the harvest fields. 
His earnings quickly went for drink. He did get 
hungry, and his clothes were torn to tatters before 
spring, but he did not break in any windows as he had 



threatened. There are ''crooks" among the tramps, 
but not so many as might be supposed. The average 
tramp does not possess the courage to be a first-class 

Warden Wesley Westbrook, of the Cook County 
jail, supports this estimate of the tramp as an offender: 

I am convinced that the tramp does not have the courage to 
be a criminal. He will steal something to eat or wear, and he 
may steal a door mat or some article he may sell for a quarter to 
get a coffee an'; or, if he is drinking, to get the price of a pint of 
whiskey. But tramps do not become criminal in the serious 
sense. They make noise and threats sometimes but I have found 
them an easy group to get along with. It takes considerable 
courage to break into a house or to hold a person up and the 
tramp will not do this. He seems to think that he can get a 
living easier and with less risk. 

But whether a major offender or not, the fact isl 
that the homeless man is almost always liable to 
arrest as a vagrant. He is marked as a potential 
offender. He always faces the possibility of being 
arrested on suspicion. Where the ex-convict is 
harassed by the authorities because they have his 
record, the tramp is often held because they do not 
have his record. Often migrants are taken from 
freight trains and transported many miles to the 
scenes of some offense only to be turned loose. Often 
they are held for days in local jails until they can 
prove an alibi or their identity can be established. 
For them there is no redress. 

The status of the homeless man in the courts is 
not high. Again and again men are arraigned before 
the judge for vagrancy, fighting, drunkenness, beg- 
ging, petty stealing, and other minor offenses. Any 
policeman can walk along West Madison Street any 
day and see some man or perhaps a dozen who could 



be arrested on some charge. If all policemen did 
this the jails would be full and the police courts in 
which these cases are tried would be continually over- 
flowing. Only the most conspicuous cases are 
arrested. Those are numerous enough to keep an 
average judge busy in an average police court. 

The judge who sits in the Desplaines Street police 
court, where more tramps are arraigned than in any 
other court in Chicago, faces sometimes as many as 
loo men whose cases must be disposed of within a 
few hours. One morning the investigator visited 
Judge LaBuy*s court in the Desplaines Street sta- 
tion and saw more than fifty cases of vagrancy, dis- 
orderly conduct, drunkenness, etc., disposed of in less 
than half an hour. There was little material at hand 
by which the judge could arrive at a just decision, 
consequently he disposed of the cases with only that 
evidence that was apparent. Apparently neither the 
needs of the individual were being met nor the 
demands of justice satisfied.^ 

The experiences of the tramp or hobo in the police 
court do not increase his respect for the law and the 
administration of justice. He finds the administra- 
tion of justice a mechanical process. At the points 
where the law touches his life it has lost every trace 
of the human touch unless it be the brutal "third 
degree" or the traditional "sixty days." The courts 
sometimes put fear into his heart but they do not 
reform him. 

What status as a citizen does the hobo wish ? His 
attitude toward the police and his reaction toward 
the civil authorities that represent organized society 
seem to be tempered with antipathy. Most of the 

^ Unpublished Document 80. 



songs he sings are songs of protest. The organiza- 
tions to which he allies himself are antagonistic to 
things as they are. ; 

In many ways, the migratory worker is "a man<' | 
without a country." By the very nature of his / 
occupation he is deprived of the ballot, and liable 1/ \_ 
when not at work to arrest for vagrancy and tres- ' 
passing. The public ignores him generally, but now 
and again pities or is hostile to him. With no status 
in organized society, he longs for a classless society \ 
where all inequalities shall be abolished. In the 
I.W.W. and other radical organizations, he finds in 
association with restless men of his own kind the 
recognition everywhere else denied him. 





LIKE other communities, Hobohemia has its emiJ 
nent persons. In the flux and flow of the hfe 
on the "main stem" certain individuals are conspicu- 
ous. They are for the most part the soap-box, 
orators, the organizers and promoters of Utopias. 
These men are the most loved or the most hated of 
all the Hobohemian celebrities. They are either 
overwhelmingly approved or are unsparingly con- 
demned as grafters and parasites. But whether 
exploiters or benefactors they are centers of interest. 
They are powers. Among the many men of this 
group are: James Eads How, Dr. Ben L. Reitman, 
John X. Kelly, Michael C. Walsh, Daniel Horsley, 
and A. W. Dragstedt. 

Outside of these leaders of the migratory workers 
are mission workers, like Charles W. Langsman, of 
the Bible Rescue Mission; and John Van de Water, 
of the Helping Hand Mission; and Brigadier J. E. 
Atkins, of the Salvation Army, which is neither a 
mission nor a church. 

It has been the policy of the Baptist Church on 
North LaSalle Street and the Immanuel Baptist 
Church on South Michigan Avenue more than other 
churches to feed homeless men. Dr. Johnston Myers 
is pastor of the latter church, and probably the most 
talked-of minister in Hobohemia when times are 
hard. Dr. Myers is contrasted by homeless men with 
the Greensteins on South State Street. "Mother" 
Greenstein's "bread line" is known the country over. 

These or their counterparts may be found in any 
city where hobos gather. 





How, a man of wealth and education, renounced 
all to share the lot of the hobos. He is not an 
imposing personality, but he is a kindly, ingratiating, 
almost saintly man. He is a dreamer and a visionary 
with a program for reforming the world. Every cent 
that he does not spend for doughnuts and twenty-five- 
cent flops goes to the "cause." He hopes that other 
millionaires will see his good works and imitate him. 

How is a bachelor in his late forties. According 
to rumor, which he neither affirms nor denies, he has 
two college degrees, one of them in medicine. He 
plans soon to enter a college for a year to study law, 
so as to be the better prepared to promote the inter- 
ests of the International Brotherhood Welfare Asso- 
ciation and the "Hobo College." The I.W.W. 
believes the world will be reformed by organization 
and direct action first, and education second. How 
puts education first. He hopes to establish a central 
hobo university to which the numerous hobo colleges 
in the large cities will be feeders. 

To How the hobos are a "chosen people" who 
have been denied their own. They will come into 
their own in time. All his repeated failures to build 
up a strong organization of migratory workers have 
not shaken his faith in his vision. How still believes 
that hobos and millionaires will sooner or later work 
together in harmony to construct the House of 
Happiness for humanity. 


With the exception of James Eads How, "the 
milHonaire hobo," Reitman is known to more mi- 
gratory workers than any other man in the country. 




Several vears 3.Q0, while he was roaming casually 
over the United States, Reitman was dubbed by the 
papers the ''King of the Hobos." This title was 
well earned by more than twenty years on the road, 
including two or three tramps around the world. 

His own description of himself given to the 
papers several years ago still holds: 

I am an American by birth, a Jew by parentage, a Baptist by \J 
adoption, a physician and teacher by profession, cosmopolitan 
by choice, a Socialist by inclination, a celebrity by accident, a 
tramp by twenty years' experience, and a reformer by inspiration. 

The only modification that he would make today 
is that he has settled into the routine of his profession. 
He still lectures at the "Hobo College.'' He still 
intercedes for hobos and guarantees their bills in 
case they do not make good. He is still a retuge for 
the sick and afflicted and not a day passes that he 
does not treat some down-and-outer free. He is still 
a reformer but he has lost that 'Tean, hungry look" 
of his hobo days, and since he owns a Ford, the hobos 
charge him with being an aristocrat. 


John Kelly has been associated with James Eads 
How for more than fifteen years. Before he met How 
he was a curbstone orator. Beating his way from 
city to city, he has talked in the "slave markets" of 
every metropolitan city in the United States. He 
has been jailed many times for his "soap-boxing," 
and has otten been forced to leave town between the 
suns because of free-speech fights. He has often 
beaten his way i,coo miles to be present at a hobo 
convention and to participate in the demonstrations 
of the hobo against the upper strata of society. 



Kelly is still an organizer, though he is not an 
enthusiastic or hopeful one. He still has faith, but 
he is no longer the staunch advocate of democratic 
hobo organizations he formerly was. Years of bitter 
experience have taught him that the average hobo 
will not stand up under any responsibility. At one 
time he was an I.W.W. soap-boxer, but he no longer 
believes that the "Wobblies" are doing anything for 
the hobo, and he frankly tells them so. 

From a champion of democracy, he has swung 
over to an advocate of benevolent autocracy. He is 
still active in the "Hobo College," but is often at 
variance with How and opposes him bitterly on 
some issues. 

How, an idealist, has never learned that the 
ordinary hobo organization is almost sure to fail if 
left to manage itself. "But," says Kelly, the organ- 
izer, "they'll never succeed. They will never be 
cured of quarreling over trifles. They have got to be 
saved by some other method than their own power." 


Walsh has long been a factor in the hobo life of 
Chicago. At present he is the head of a struggling 
organization of workers known as the United Brother- 
hood of American Laborers, which seeks to organize 
workers around an insurance program. Walsh desig- 
nates himself "Journalist and Lecturer, Founder of 
the Famous Hobo College," "The Society of Vaga- 
bonds," and "The Mary Garden Forum." He 
further styles himself, not without reason, a graduate 
of the "University of Adversity." 

Left an orphan at an early age, he began wander- 
ing, working casually at his trade as an iron-worker. 



He traveled extensively over the United States and 
went abroad as a tramp worker and a beach-comber. 
In 1906-7, becoming interested in the problem of the 
down-and-outs, he conducted the Liberty Hotel in 
Seattle for the unemployed. Later in San Francisco 
he was again active in the interest of the unem- 
ployed. Still later he joined James Eads How in 
St. Louis and aided in organizing the "penniless men 
of his own city." In 191 5 he came to Chicago and 
organized the "Hobo College." Other hobos say 
that the "college" had been in existence years be- 
fore Walsh arrived on the scene, but that he did 
play a part in making it popular. 

Walsh, as president of the "college," was able to 
attract the assistance of many leading citizens. He 
won the services of Mary Garden, who took special 
pride in singing there occasionally. He has been 
active among the unemployed, and at one time 
attracted considerable public notice which got him 
into disrepute with the local police. 

Walsh has also sought the limelight as a lyceum 
and chautauqua lecturer. His subjects dealt with 
the various aspect of the hobo problem. Walsh, 
like many of the hobo celebrities, only sees in the 
tramp problem one cause, and that is, unemployment. 
"Give the boys plenty of jobs and there will be no 
tramps." This is a popular interpretation among 
the tramps themselves. 


Daniel Horsley is a bookseller. His establish- 
ment, at 1237 West Madison Street, is called the 
hobo bookstore. The place is known as the "Pro- 



letariat" to the men on the **stem." Here many 
men who have no other address receive their mail. 

Says one man, "Where is lately, Dan " I don't 

know, but I suppose he is on his way to Chicago. 
I have had some mail for him for two weeks." The 
men meet their friends at the "Proletariat," or they 
leave things there for safekeeping. They all know 
Mr. Horsley, and he has the good will of all the 

Horsley has been somewhat of a hobo himself, as 
the following excerpt will show: 

My occupation during the past 14 years has carried me 
through many grades of labor. First, the coal mining industry 
was for many years my sole occupation. The miner, having more 
dangers to confront than most workers, does not last long. The 
industry claimed two of my brothers. After having received 
a dose of black damps (foul air), my health was not of the best so 
I decided the open air would be the most beneficial. 

I started with a picture machine to earn my living as I 
recuperated. I traveled through Nebraska, Dakota, Wyoming, 
Montana, and Alberta, Canada. In every small town we would 
generally come across some of the boys (hobos). Returning from 
the Northwest I came back East without the machine. I 
stayed a while in Iowa and then went back to the West. Pre- 
vious to and during the war I was in the shipbuilding industry. 
Leaving there I worked for a short while in the woods but decided 
to come East again. Visiting the eastern seaboard I saw great 
industries closing down so I finally landed in Chicago. 

Dan's work is selling books and periodicals but 
he gets his recreation by mounting the soap box 
occasionally. He is a devout student of Marxian 
economics, and he likes nothing better than to talk 
economics to an audience of workers. At the "Hobo 
College" he is known as "professor," and he gives 
lectures there now and then on economics, or his 
other favorite topic, current history. 



The Hobo News has printed a number of his 
articles on economic subjects. His writing, like his 
teaching and soap-boxing, is along Marxian lines. 
He has little patience for anyone who sees things 
differently. His hobby is education, and the book 
business gives him a chance to get to the homeless 
man and all other workers the kind of literature that 
he thinks will start them thinking. 


Mr. Dragstedt is one of the numerous ex- 
secretaries of the '*Hobo College" for the year 1922- 
23. As secretary of the "college," it was his business 
to attend to the finances of the institution and to 
manage the programs. It is the secretary's job to 
find speakers for various occasions, and to advertise 
the meetings. In short, the secretary must be a 
diplomat and an executive. Dragstedt has all the 
earmarks of a good hobo secretary. 

Born in Sweden some forty years ago, he emi- 
grated to this country and settled in Montana before 
he was out of his teens. He did not remain settled 
long, but went here and there in search of work until 
he developed into a regular hobo. He has worked at 
nearly all the migratory occupations and has seen 
nearly all the states of the Union. He is now one of 
the seasoned veterans of the floating fraternity. He 
is getting over his passion for travel, but he has not 
yet learned to settle down. He still Hkes to feel that 
he is free to go whenever the notion strikes him, 
although for a year or so he has not gone very far 
from the city. 

Dragstedt is a man of wide and varied experience, 
but he seldom can be persuaded to talk about him- 



self. He did his bit in the late war and went as far 
as France. Most hobos who have been across like 
to tell about it, but not he. But Dragstedt talks. 
He has ideas and he talks about them. He has a 
great many ideas, some of them consistent and 
others not, but they keep him occupied and he is 
generally keeping someone else interested. He is a 
type of the hobo intellectual. 

As a high brow, Dragstedt is a poet of no mean 
ability. His poems either protest against the "sys- 
tem" or idealize tramp life. He is also an artist. 
The walls of the "Hobo College" are adorned with 
samples of his workmanship such as cartoons and 
decorated placards. He has an ambition to become 
a cartoonist, but he is a hobo, and hobos are men who 
will not apply themselves. He has two or three 
scenarios that might be developed into fair picture 
plays, but he will not go back to them to polish 
them up. This calls for more application than he 
cares to give. In this, again, he is a hobo, but he 
does not grieve about that. 


Recently, Superintendent Langsman celebrated 
his twentieth spiritual birthday. For twenty years 
he has been connected with the Bible Rescue Mission. 
Before he became converted, to use his words, he was 
an "ordinary bad man of the street." He has lived 
the life of the tramp. He knows hobos from the 
human side. He knows their weaknesses, their 
temptations, and their trials. For twenty years he 
has worked with them to aid them. Hundreds of 
men have been lifted out of the quicksands of a 



transient and aimless life by him, while he has 
inspired thousands to make an effort. 

In his official capacity he is the superintendent of 
the Bible Rescue Mission. He is also vice-president 
of the midwest district of the International Mission 
Union. To the men on the street he is known as 
"Charley." No mission man in Chicago is better 

The Bible Rescue Mission is the only one that 
feeds men the year around. Mr. Langsman feels 
that hungry men need food just as much in summer 
as in winter. To him feeding is an evidence of the 
spirit of Christianity. Because of this policy of feed- 
ing, he has been severely criticized by the homeless 
men themselves and by missions. Many of the "bos" 
say that "Charley" has a "doughnut philosophy." 
They maintain that religion is not worth much if it 
can only get into a man*s heart through his stomach. 
These criticisms come back to Superintendent Langs- 
man, but they have not changed his policy. 

One of Langsman's hobbies is a homeless man's 
picnic each year. When "Charley" stages a picnic 
it is a gala day for West Madison Street. All the 
"boys" come out for a ride to the country in trucks 
furnished by various firms and to eat sandwiches 
provided by the churches. 


The Helping Hand Mission at 850 West Madison 
Street is essentially a family mission with Sunday- 
school, parents' classes, and other auxiliary activities. 
It does not, however, neglect the homeless man. 
Superintendent John Van de Water, for the last eight 



years superintendent of the Helping Hand Mission, is 
one of the few practical men in the mission work. 
Throughout the winter his organization feeds, upon 
an average, loo men a day. However, no one is fed 
who will not work. He operates a wood yard and any 
able-bodied man who asks for aid is given a chance to 
work. His is the only mission that has such a test. 

Mr. Van de Water does not care for converts 
that must be "bought" with doughnuts and coffee, 
and he has little patience with the missions imposed 
upon by men who become converted only for a 
place to sleep or something to eat. He is in favor 
of concerted action among missions, because where 
they work separately they lay themselves open to 

The homeless man is often an ungrateful indi- 
vidual, but Mr. Van de Water feels that more than a 
fourth of the men aided really appreciate the help 
they get. Many men prefer the mission floor in 
cold weather to the floor in the ''flophouse," which is 
seldom scrubbed. 


Most exploited and least loved by the hobos is the 
Salvation Army. But the Salvation Army does more 
for the hobo than any other agency. In every city of 
the country it is the "good Samaritan" to the down- 
and-outs. Not only is it interested in working upon 
the hearts of men, but it seeks to help people to walk 
alone. One of the pioneers in this program of 
practical salvation is Brigadier J. E. Atkins. 

Brigadier Atkins, a native of Wales, enlisted with 
the Salvation Army forty-three years ago. He was 



sent to this country in 1886 as a worker at the time 
when the first split occurred in . the ranks. At that 
time he was a regular officer in the ranks, and later 
became a division officer. Before the war he was 
placed in charge of the Salvation Army industrial 
work in Denver, Kansas City, and Des Moines. 

He entered the army as a chaplain, and was 
assigned to the first division. He was attached to 
"Young Teddy'* Roosevelt's organization, and as a 
consequence saw considerable action. In this capa- 
city he spent twenty-one months overseas, serving 
with his organization in all its major offensives. 
Twice he was gassed, and, as a result, his voice has 
been permanently impaired. 

Since his discharge from the army. Brigadier 
Atkins has been in charge of the four Salvation Army 
hotels for men in Chicago which cater to the superior 
class of homeless men. These hotels are operated 
on the usual Salvation Army business-like basis. 
The policy is to make them pay their way, if possible, 
but not to charge prices greater than the commercial 
hotels. It is the Atkins aim to give all the service 
that is consistent with the price: to keep the price 
as low as possible, and to keep the places clean and 
orderly. He is insistent on getting clean, sober 
guests in the Army hotels, and no apparently clean, 
sober man without funds need go away. The con- 
trary is said to be true by many "bos," but they are 
generally men who have been "found out." 


We have knocked out the heavy stone barrier which stood 
between us and the people and placed in its stead a glass, busi- 
ness, inviting front, bearing such announcements as, "We wor- 
ship, we heal, we clothe, we feed, we find employment for those 



in need"; ''Your friends are inside, come in." Between five 
hundred and one thousand people accept this invitation daily. 
We are prepared to meet and help them. 

This is what Dr. Myers has done with a typical, 
forbidding, gray-stone church, the Immanuel Baptist 
Church, at 2320 Michigan Avenue. For twenty- 
seven years he has been pastor of this church, and 
all that time he has been adhering to the Immanuel 
plan outlined above. For ten years previous to his 
coming to the Immanuel Church, he was pastor of 
the Ninth Street Baptist Church of Cincinnati, where 
he followed this scheme of serving humanity as well 
as God. 

Dr. Myers is a practical religionist. He is bring- 
ing religion out of the clouds, and has made it an 
everyday, functioning affair. In his mind it does not 
hurt a church to have a kitchen in the basement nor 
to operate a restaurant in the building. His church 
serves an excellent meal for thirty cents. Many of 
the workers in the automobile salesrooms and the 
students from the medical college near by are in the 
habit of taking lunch at the church. 

Most of the churches in the business area have 
closed their doors, but the Immanuel Baptist is more 
conspicuous today than ever before. The business 
men on the street are proud of it. They contributed 
recently to help rebuild it after the steeple had been 
blown down by a gale. The church does not serve 
its members as it used to, because most of the fami- 
lies have moved away and now most of its congrega- 
tion is composed of homeless men. 

Dr. Myers does not try to preach to the men, nor 
does he try to use the material aid he gives as a 
means of coaxing men to become converted. He 



does not believe in such conversions. He and his 
staff have learned that the average homeless man can- 
not hold money. The men who apply know this 
too. "Johnston Myers will feed anyone but it is 
pretty hard to get any 'jack' from him." 



Few hobos enter Chicago who have not heard of 
"Mother" Greenstein. For years Mother and 
Father Greenstein ran a saloon on South State 
Street. It was a barrel-house and the "bos" 
flocked to it when they had money. It was one of 
the few saloons in that area that was on " the square." 
Among the hobos it is asserted that "Mother" is the 
richest woman in Chicago. But her wealth has not 
changed her habits. She reared a family of seven 
children, and most of them have gone through college 
and into business for themselves. The Greensteins 
are proud of their family, but no less proud of their 
work. With the coming of prohibition, they closed 
the saloon and opened a restaurant on the corner of 
Ninth and State streets. 

The place is known as "Mother's Restaurant," 
and it is one of the few places in Hobohemia that has 
the right to write "Home Cooking" on the window. 
Day after day "Mother" is on the job, cooking 
steaks and chops and French-fried potatoes, while 
"Father" waits table and serves at the bar. Mother 
lives in her work. She is proud of her kitchen, and 
she likes to serve hungry men. The hobos say no 
chef in the Blackstone or Drake can prepare more 
savory dishes. The Greensteins did not earn their 
reputation by serving hungry men who could pay 


their way, but by serving the penniless and hungry 
at times when it is hard for hungry men to get food. 

A sign is painted on the wall outside the restau- 
rant: ''Mother's Restaurant. Don't Go Hungry. 
See Mother." Last winter another sign placed in 
the window read: "Attention! Starting Monday, 
Dec. 20 [1921], 'Mother' Will Serve Hot Coffee and 
Rolls Free .... from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m." Some 
mornings the bread line at 901 South State Street 
contained as many as 500 men who were out to get 
a bowl of coffee and something to eat, but none were 
ever turned away. There is always plenty of bread 
and plenty of coffee, and good coffee, too. 

The hobos do appreciate "Mother." The old- 
timers of South State Street swear by her. 


This rapid sketch of a few persons in the Who's 
Who of Hobohemia gives a picture of the local leader- 
ship among the homeless men. All these persons, 
and many others who embody either the aspirations 
of the hobos or the organized religious and philan- 
thropic impulses of the larger community toward 
the migrant, must be taken into account in any 
' fundamental policy and program for his welfare. 
All these leaders are dealing with the homeless man 
as a human being, that is, with his personal needs, his 
memories, and his hopes. Working with these 
leaders, the social agencies may secure both insight 
into his attitudes and wishes and his co-operation for 
his own well-being. 



THE homeless man is an extensive reader. This 
is especially true of the transients, the tramp, 
and the hobo. The tramp employs his leisure to read 
everything that comes his way. If he is walking 
along the railroad track, he picks up the papers that 
are thrown from the trains; he reads the cast-off 
magazines. If he is in the city, he hunts out some 
quiet corner where he may read. The tramp is a 
man with considerable leisure, but few books. 

The libraries are open to them, but comparatively 
few use them. Public libraries are generally impos- 
ing structures and, dressed as he usually is, the tramp 
hesitates to enter them. Dan Horsley, who is a 
newsdealer and runs a bookstore on West Madison, in 
an article in the Hobo News for October, 1922, writes: 

Just as a hobo would feel out of place in a Fifth Avenue 
church, so he would feel in the average library. He does not 
make general use of the libraries because of the menacing fear 
of the law. He is always watching lest he be caught as a vagrant, 
and this prevents him seeking recreative study; so he gets his 
own literature to read and seeks some quiet place. 

There are men in the hobo class who are not 
deterred by these scruples. Some of the most 
persistent users of the library have been initiated 
during the winter time when they were forced inside 
for shelter. The newspaper reading-room of the 
Chicago Public Library has become for them a 
favorite retreat during the cold winter days. It is 
also a good resting-place in the hot summer months. 

Lodging-houses sometimes have reading-rooms 
in which guests may find the local newspapers and 




current periodicals. Such reading material is usu- 
ally extensively read and much thumb-marked. 
Most lodging-houses and rooming-houses do not 
provide reading matter for their guests. Seldom 
does a tramp throw away a paper. He passes it on 
to someone else, and after it has served its usefulness 
as reading matter, he may use it at night for a bed 
either in a "flophouse" or a park, along the docks, 
or in box cars. 

The hobo reads the daily papers but does not 
indorse them. He looks with disapproval upon the 
so-called "capitalist" press. If he belongs to the 
radicals he is sure that the press is against him. But 
in spite of this he reads it. He reads it for the 

Radical papers, to be sure, are steadfast in their 
efforts to promote his interests and champion his 
cause, but it is a cause that is so well known to the 
homeless man that it has lost its novelty. There are 
many radical papers. Among them are the Weekly 
People, the Truth, the Industrial Solidarity, the 
Worker, the Hobo News, the Liberator, the Voice of 
Labor, These are not printed primarily for the 
homeless man, but have a wide circulation among 
the so-called "slum proletariat." 

The homeless man reads a certain amount of 
religious literature, but little of it is perused in the 
spirit hoped for by the mission worker or street 
evangelist. He reads it because it is handed to him 
and it kills time. 

Short-story magazines are popular. Next to 
short-story magazines would come railroad or engi- 
neering journals and other magazines dealing with 
popular mechanics. 





Sex stories are, of course, popular. The tramp 
has a preference for books of adventure and action. 
Jack London is the most widely read of novelists 
among the "bos." Books on mechanics, How to 
Run an Automobile^ Uses of the Steel Square^ Block 
Signal Systems^ Gas Engines^ have a wide sale. 

Works on phrenology, palmistry, Christian Science, 
hypnotism, and the secrets of the stars, etc., are of 
perennial interest. Joke books and books explaining 
tricks with cards or riddles, detective stories, and 
books in the field of the social sciences are surprisingly 
popular. Bookstores patronized by tramps keep in 
stock special pocket-size editions of works on soci- 
ology, economics, politics, and history. The radical 
periodicals recommend books to the serious-minded 
hobo reader. Following is a list from the Hobo News: 

Easy Outlines on Economics^ by Noah Ablett 
A Worker Looks at History^ by Mark Starr 
Philosophical Essays; Positive Outlines of Philosophy^ by 
J. Dietzgen 

Among the books recommended for the proletariat 
in the I.W.W. literature list for April, 1922, are the 
following : 

The Ancient Lowly ^ C. Osborne Ward 
Ancient Society ^ Lewis H. Morgan 
Capital, Karl Marx 
Capital Today, Herman Cahn 
The Economic Causes of War, Achille Loria 
Essays on the Materialistic Conception of History, Antonio 

Evolution of Man, Wilhelm Boelache 

Evolution of Property, Paul Lafargue 

Social and Philosophical Studies, Paul Lafargue 

Stories of the Great Railroads, Charles Edward Russell 

The Universal Kinship, J. Howard Moore 



History of Great American Fortunes^ Gustavus Myers 
History of the Supreme Court^ Gustavus Myers 
Origin of the Family; Private Property and the State ^ Frederick 

The History of the IW.W.^ Frederic Brissenden 

These books are kept in stock at the I.W.W. 
headquarters and extensively sold and read by the 
intellectuals. Soap-box orators get fuel for the fires 
they seek to kindle from books of this sort. It is 
common knowledge on the "stem" that one can tell 
the books a speaker reads by the opinions he 
expresses and the programs he favors. 


The hobo who reads sooner or later tries his hand 
at writing. A surprisingly large number of them 
eventually realize their ambition to get into print. 
It is not unusual to meet a man of the road with a 
number of clippings in his pocket of articles he has 
contributed to the daily press. Most of the great 
dailies have columns that are accessible to the free- 
lance writer, and the pages of the radical press are 
always open to productions of the hobo pen. Most 
of these contributions are in the form of letters to 
editors. One man who writes many such letters 
proudly exhibited an article recently published in 
the Chicago 'Daily Tribune. It was signed "F. W. B." 
He explained that these letters stood for "Fellow 
Worker Block.'* That was his nom de plume. 

The hobo writer does not concern himself with 
letters alone. A number of them are ambitious to 
become novelists, essayists, and even dramatists. 
Some of these men have manuscripts that they have 
carried about with them for years in search of a 



publisher. One such author, an old man, said: "I 
have material enough together to write a book. All 
I want is to get someone to help me organize it. I 
want someone to go over it with me. You see, 
I never had much schooling and my grammar is not 
very good." Another man carried about a great roll 
of manuscript which purported to be a "society 
novel." It was entitled The Literary in Literature. 
It was written in lead pencil and represented the 
accumulated effort of several years. When the mood 
struck him, he added a chapter or a paragraph. 
Before the last page had been written, however, the 
first was so badly dimmed from being carried around 
that it could not be deciphered. 

Some hobo writers have visions of a financial 
success that will put them on "easy street." One 
man offered to share the proceeds from the publica- 
tions of a series of essays on economics if the investi- 
gator would typewrite it. "Why, this will bring 
thousands of dollars," he said. "If I can only get a 
publisher interested, but," he added, "they don't 
seem to care for live subjects." 

Another hobo writes songs and has the same diffi- 
culty with publishers. He still feels, after hundreds 
of failures, that he will eventually get into the 

The hobo writer who plies the pen for the love of 
it is not unusual. One man has been working on a 
play for several months. He cannot get anyone 
interested, but that has not quenched his enthusiasm. 
Another man spends most of his leisure on the north 
side of Hobohemia, writing fantastic paragraphs. 
They are interesting and amusing. He does not 
try to publish them. He writes them because he 



enjoys it. Most numerous of the hobo writers are 
the propagandists and dreamers. They are the 
chief contributors to the rebel press. Many of them 
care to be identified with no other. They are not 
artists nor do they write for gain. They have Httle 
patience for the writer who hves for the so-called 
"filthy lucre." 

But whatever their motive, most of these hobo 
writers, for the want of a better medium, become 
contributors to the radical press. Without them 
radical sheets like the I.W.W. publications and the 
Hobo News would not appeal to the homeless man. 
The radical press in turn serves as a pattern by 
which hobo writers fashion and color their literary 

THE "industrial SOLIDARITY^ 

The Industrial Solidarity is a typical I.W.W. 
paper. It comes nearer than any other I.W.W. pa- 
per to reflecting the mind and the spirit of the 
average hobo. It is a six- or eight-page weekly and 
sells for five cents. It is published in Chicago from 
where it is distributed to individual subscribers or 
in bundles to the peddlers or newsdealers. 

The issue of July i, 1922, contains the following 

In bold headlines across the front page under the caption, 
"Company Brought on Herrin Mine War" is a detailed narrative 
of the whole affair written by George Williams who is supposed 
to have been an eye-witness. This article contains four full 
columns, two of them on the front page. Another front-page 
article is devoted to the freeing of political prisoners. It has 
special reference to the fifty-two I.W.W. in Leavenworth who 
refused to ask the President for pardon. The article is headed, 
"Hundreds of Cities in Million Signature Petition Drive." 



The slogan was "Let Them Go Free." Attorney-General 
Daugherty, who at best is not popular with the floating popu- 
lation, is shown in a cartoon on the front page marching in a 
parade carrying a banner on which is inscribed, "Please, Let 
Morse out of Prison." Over the cartoon is written the ironical 
legend, which harks back to some remark that had been used 
against the "Wobblies," "This is no Children's Crusade." 

Considerable space is devoted to the spring drive for member- 
ship. At the time of the publication of this number the drive 
was on in full blast in the harvest fields where the so-called 
"slugging committees" were out enroHing members. One long 
article was published telling of "conditions" in Kansas and 
Oklahoma where the Ku Klux Klan was offering active opposi- 
tion to the LW.W. The articles had been sent in by some 
"bo" who told in detail how the "Wobblies" outwitted the 
"town clowns," or local police, and the K.K.K. 

According to the LW.W. literature list for April, 
1922, the following periodicals are issued regularly: 




No. Each 


Industrial Solidarity 










New York 







A Felszabadulas 














Rahotnicheska Mysl . . . . 










Jedna Velka Unie 

















"Wobbly" papers are extensively used as lesson 
sheets. Solidarity has one long article of this char- 
acter which is an analysis and criticism of craft union- 
ism. Finally, there are several communications from 



members on the road and four or five editorials on 
questions of the day. 

The Solidarity is only one of a number of I.W.W. 
publications, but the most important as far as the 
hobos are concerned. The organization maintains a 
publishing company of its own, the Equity Press, 
which is situated at the I.W.W. headquarters in 

THE "hobo news" 

The Hobo News^ published in St. Louis, contains 
sixteen pages and carries no advertising. It is pub- 
lished monthly and sells for ten cents. It is distrib- 
uted, like Solidarity y by bundle orders or subscription. 

The July, 1922, issue of the Hobo News has the 
following contents: 

An article by Laura Irwin entided, "Half Dead (Unnecessary 
Movement a Crime)." It laments the fact that more care is 
given to machines and animals than to men by the big interests. 
Another article is a reprint entitled, "Hobos in Missouri." 
It is a description of life on the road. Daniel Horsley, a Chi- 
cagoan, has an article on "Hobo Life and Death: Something to 
Think About." It is a discussion of the struggle for existence. 
There is also a short story entitled "Callahans's Castle" depict- 
ing jungle pastimes. 

Under the heading "Near Poetry" are several short poems 
by different hobo contributors. Some of the titles are: "His- 
tory," "Adrift," "To a Hobo," "Labor's March," "Our Boss," 
"The Hobo: of Course," and "The Glory of Toil." Several 
letters to the editor deal with subjects of general interest to the 
hobos. The editor writes on the prospects for work the coming 
winter. There are two cartoons. One shows the figure of a 
worker hewn out of stone at the top of a mountain. He is 
being assailed by politicians and capitalists. Over the cartoon 
is this legend, "These Shall Not Prevail against Him." Another 
cartoon shows a tramp waiting at the water tank. A train is 
approaching in the distance. It is entitled, "The Regular Stop." 



No class of men are in a better position to know 
life than the migratory population. These men have 
a large fund of experience, but they do not seem to 
have developed any sense of the relative values. 
With all this experience and with all these contacts 
with life, they are not able to interpret it. The intel- 
lectuals are obsessed by the class struggle, and instead 
of writing literature, they prefer to repeat the formu- 
las and play with the mental toys which the doctri- 
naire reformers and revolutionists have fashioned for 

We cannot say therefore that the radical press in 
monopolizing the hobo pens has robbed art. Among 
all these contributors to the radical publications, 
there are few who might produce literature. Many 
of them do not have patience to write literature nor 
the courage to formulate a new idea. They prefer 
to ride a hobby and repeat familiar formulas. 

Writers who do find themselves do not remain in 
the hobo class. Others have the ability to rise, but 
because of drink or drugs are unable to do so. These 
men may find a place on the staff of one of the radi- 
cal papers. They may even aspire to an editorship. 
Such a goal is not uncommon among the intellectuals. 
The Hobo News is one paper that the hobo writer likes 
to be identified with because it is more than a doc- 
trinaire propagandist sheet. It maintains some liter- 
ary features, and every issue has one or more articles 
or poems that portray hobo life. 



MUCH so-called hobo verse which has found its 
way into print was not written by tramps, 
but by men who knew enough of the life of the road 
to enable them to interpret its spirit. The best 
V hobo poems have been written behind prison bars. 
VMany of the songs of the I.W.W. have been written 
W jail. 

The poetry most popular among the men on the 
road are ballads describing some picturesque and 
tragic incident of the hobo's adventurous life. The 
following by an unknown author illustrates the 
type. Here is an incident told in the language of 
the road in a manner that every "bo" can under- 
stand and appreciate. 

The Gila Monster Route 

The lingering sunset across the plain 
Kissed the rear end of an east-bound train. 
And shone on the passing track close by 
Where a dingbat sat on a rotten tie. 

He was ditched by the "shack," and cruel fate. 
The "con" highballed, and the manifest freight, 
Pulled out on the stem behind the mail. 
And beat it east on a sanded rail. 

As she pulled away in the fading night 
He could see the gleam of her red tail lights. 
Then the moon arose, and the stars came out; 
He was ditched on the Gila Monster Route. 

There was nothing in sight but sand and space; 

No chance for a bo to feed his face; 

Not even a shack to beg for a lump. 

Nor a hen house there to frisk for a gump. 



As he gazed far out on the soHtude 
He dropped his head and began to brood. 
He thought of the time he lost his pal 
In the hostile berg of Stockton, Cal. 

They had mooched the stem and threw their feet, 
And speared four bits on which to eat; 
But deprived themselves of their daily bread, 
And slufFed the coin for dago-red. 

Then, down by the tracks, in the jungle's glade. 
On the cool, green grass in the tule's shade. 
They shed their coats, and ditched their shoes, 
And tanked up full of that colored booze. 

Then, they took a flop with their hides plumb full. 
And did not hear the harness bull. 
Till he shook them out of their boozy nap, 
With a husky voice and a loaded sap. 

They were charged with vag, for they had no kale. 
And the judge said sixty days in jail; 
But the john had a bundle, the worker's plea. 
So he gave him a floater and set him free. 

They had turned him out, but ditched his mate. 
So he grabbed the guts of an east-bound freight; 
He had held his form to the rusty rods 
Till the brakeman hollered, "Hit the sod." 

So the bo rolled off and in the ditch. 
With two switch lights and a rusty switch, 
A poor, old, seedy, half-starved bo 
On a hostile pike without a show. 

Then all at once from out of the dark 

Came the short, sharp notes of a coyote's bark; 

The bo looked up and quickly rose, 

And shook the dust from his threadbare clothes. 

Far oflF in the west through the moonlight night 
He saw the gleam of a big head light; 
An east-bound stock run hummed the rail. 
It was due at the switch to clear the mail. 



As she pulled up close the head-end "shack" 
Threw the switch to the passing track. 
The stock rolled in and off the main, 
The line was clear for the west-bound train. 

As she hove in sight far up the track. 

She was working steam with the brake shoes slack; 

Whistling once at the whistling post. 

She flittered by like a frightened ghost. 

You could hear the roar of the big six wheel, 
As the drivers pounded the polished steel, 
And the screech of the flanges on the rail. 
As she beat it west o'er the desert trail. 

The John got busy and, took a risk. 
He climbed aboard and began to frisk, 
He reached up high and began to feel 
For an end-door pin, then he cracked a seal. 

'Twas a double-deck stock loaded with sheep; 
The John got in and went to sleep; 
The "con" highballed, and she whistled out. 
They were off — down the Gila Monster Route. 

The following ballad by Harry Kemp, the " tramp 
poet," describes a situation that is familiar to those 
who know Hobohemia. Many men in the tramp 
class, to escape cold and hunger, have yielded to a 
similar temptation. 

The Tramp Confession 

We huddled in the mission 
\ Fer it was cold outside 
And listened to the preacher 
Tell of the Crucified; 

Without a sleety drizzle 

Cut deep each ragged form. 
An' so we stood the talkin' 

Fer shelter from the storm. 



They sang of Gods and Angels 

An' Heaven's eternal joy 
An' things I stopped believin' 

When I was still a boy; 

They spoke of good an' evil 

An* offered savin' grace 
An' some showed love for mankind 

Ashinin' in their face. 

An' some their graft was workin' 

The same as me and you; 
But some was urgin* on us 

What they believed was true. 

We sang an' dozed an' listened, 

But only feared, us men 
The time when, service over. 

We'd have to mooch again. 

An' walk the icy pavements. 
An' breast the snow storm gray. 

Till the saloons was opened. 
An' there was hints of day. 

So, when they called out, "Sinners, 
Won't you come ?" I came . . . . 

But in my face was pallor 

An* in my heart was shame .... 

An' so fergive me, Jesus, 
Fer mockin* of thy name. 

Fer I was cold an* hungry; 

They gave me food and bed 
After I kneeled there with them. 

An* many prayers was said. 

An* so fergive me, Jesus, 

I didn't mean no harm .... 

Fer outside it was zero 
An' inside it was warm. 



Yes, I was cold an* hungry 

An' Oh, Thou Crucified, 
Thou Friend of all the Lowly, 

Fergive the lie I lied.^ 


Many men have seen charms in the hfe on the 
road; Walt Whitman and Vachel Lindsay are or were 
tramp poets. For men who cannot endure the 
security and the tyranny of convention, this care- 
free existence has an irresistible appeal. The follow- 
ing swinging poem by H. H. Knibbs vibrates with 
the call of the road. 

Nothing to Do but Go 

Fm the wandering son with the nervous feet, 

That never were meant for a steady beat; 

Fve had many a job for a little while, 

Fve been on the bum and Fve lived in style; 

And there was the road, stretchin' mile after mile, 

And nothing to do but go. 

So, beat it. Bo, while your feet are mates; 
Take a look at the whole United States; 
There's the little fire and the pipe at night; 
And up again when the morning's bright; 
With nothin' but road and sky in sight. 
And nothin' to do but go. 

So, beat it. Bo, while the goin's good. 
While the birds in the trees are sawin' wood; 
If today ain't the finest for you and me. 
Then there's tomorrow that's going to be. 
And the day after that, that's comin', see. 
And nothin' to do but go. 

1 H. Kemp, The Cry of Youth, p. 60. By special permission of the pub- 
lisher, Mitchell Kennerley. 



Then beat it, Bo, while you're young and strong; 
See all you can, for it won't last long; 
You can tarry for only a little spell, 
On the long, gray road to Fare-Ye-Well, 
That leads to Heaven or maybe Hell, 
And nothin' to do but go.^ 

"Away from Town/' by Harry Kemp, is a vivid 
picture of the springtime yearning that the hobo 
feels to be off to the country after spending the 
winter in the city's slums. Not all tramps who 
feel, with the passing of winter, the urge to move, are 
enticed from the "gaunt, gray city" in search of 
"country cheer," but a goodly number love the 
grass and shade and a season in the "jungles." It is 
the same call that makes truants of school boys and 
fishermen of staid business men. 

High perched upon a box-car, I speed, I speed today; 
I leave the gaunt, gray city some good, green miles away, 
A terrible dream in granite, a riot of streets and brick 
A frantic nightmare of people until the soul turns sick — 
Such is the high, gray city with the live green waters 'round 
Oozing up from the Ocean, slipping in from the Sound. 
I'd put up in the Bowery for nights in a ten-cent bed 
Where the dinky "L" trains thunder and rattle overhead; 
I'd traipsed the barren pavements with pain of frost in my 

I'd sidled to hotel kitchens and asked for something to eat. 
But when the snow went dripping, and the young spring came 
as one 

Who weeps because of the winter, laughs because of the sun 
I thought of a limpid brooklet that bickers through weeds all 

And I made a streak for the ferry, and rode across in a dray, 

^ H. H. Knibbs, Songs of the Outlands^ p. 50. By permission, and special 
arrangement with, Houghton, Mifflin Company, the authorized publishers. 



And dodged into the Erie where they bunt the box-cars round. 
I peeled my eye for detectives, and boarded an outward bound. 
For you know when a man's been cabined in walls for part of 
a year, 

He longs for a place to stretch in, he hankers for country cheer.' 

In spite of its transient charms, the life of the 
tramp is a hard one. It is fine to be free, but it is 
good to have a home. The hobo Hkes freedom, but 
is not satisfied to be an Ishmaelite. His speeches 
and his poetry are filled with protests against the 
social order which refuses to make a place for him; 
against the system that makes him an outcast. 

The following poem entitled "The Dishwasher" 
was written by Jim Seymour, the "Hobo poet.'* 
The second half, omitted here, is a prophecy of the 
overthrow of the "system." 

Alone in the kitchen, in grease laden steam, 
I pause for a moment — a moment to dream: 
For even a dishwasher thinks of a day. 
Wherein there'll be leisure for rest and for play. 
And now that I pause, o'er the transom there floats, 
A strain of the Traumerei's soul stirring notes. 
Engulfed in a blending of sorrow and glee, 
I wonder that music can reach even me. 

But now I am thinking; my brain has been stirred. 
The voice of a master, the lowly has heard. 
The heart breaking sobs of the sad violin. 
Arouse the thoughts of the sweet might have been. 
Had men been born equal, the use of their brain, 
Would shield them from poverty: free them from pain, 
Nor would I have sunk into the black social mire. 
Because of poor judgment in choosing a sire. 

^ H. Kemp, The Cry of Youth, p. 78. By permission of the publisher, 
Mitchell Kennerley. 



But now I am only a slave of the mill, 
That plies and remodels me just as it will; 
That makes me a dullard in brain burning heat; 
That looks at rich viands not daring to eat; 
That works with his red, blistered hands ever stuck, 
Down deep in the foul indescribable muck; 
Where dishes are plunged seventeen at a time; 
And washed in a tubful of sickening slime. 

But on with your clatter; no more must I shirk. 
The world is to me but a nightmare of work. 
For me not the music, the laughter and song; 
For no toiler is welcome amid the gay throng. 
For me not the smiles of the ladies who dine; 
Nor the sweet, clinging kisses, begotten of wine. 
For me but the venting of low, sweated groans, 
That twelve hours a night have instilled in my bones. 

Arturo Giovannitti won his reputation as a poet 
by a poem in blank verse which pictures the monot- 
ony of prison life. "The Walker" was written in 
jail, as was "The Bum," the poem by which Gio- 
vannitti is best known among the hobos. As an 
I.W.W. and a radical, his writings breathe the spirit 
of protest. "The Bum," the first three verses of 
which follow, is an eloquent tirade against religion: 

The dust of a thousand roads, the grease 
And grime of slums, were on his face; 

The fangs of hunger and disease 

Upon his throat had left their trace; 

The smell of death was in his breath. 
But in his eye no resting place. 

Along the gutters, shapeless, fagged. 
With drooping head and bleeding feet, 

Throughout the Christmas night he dragged, 
His care, his woe, and his defeat; 

Till, gasping hard, with face downward 
He fell upon the trafficked street. 



The midnight revelry aloud 

Cried out its glut of wine and lust 
The happy, clean, indifferent crowd 

Passed him in anger and disgust: 
For — fit or rum — he was a bum, 

And if he died *twas nothing lost.^ 

In the following poem, by an unknown writer, 
"The Bum on the Rods and the Bum on the Plush" 
states the case of labor against capital in the language 
and accents of the hobo: 

The bum on the rods is hunted down 

As the enemy of mankind, 
The other is driven around to his club 

Is feted, wined, and dined. 
And they who curse the bum on the rods 

As the essence of all that is bad, 
Will greet the other with a winning smile. 

And extend the hand so glad. 

The bum on the rods is a social flea 

Who gets an occasional bite. 
The bum on the plush is a social leech. 

Blood-sucking day and night. 
The bum on the rod is a load so light 

That his weight we scarcely feel, 
But it takes the labor of dozens of men 

To furnish the other a meal. 

As long as you sanction the bum on the plush 

The other will always be there. 
But rid yourself of the bum on the plush 

And the other will disappear. 
Then make an intelligent, organized kick, 

Get rid of the weights that crush. 
Don't worry about the bum on the rods, 

Get rid of the bum on the plush. 

^ Arturo Giovannitti, Arrows in the Gale, p. 40. 



The following verses are taken from a selection 
written by Henry A. White, who is a veteran of the 
road and for many years connected with the publica- 
tion of the Hobo News, It is entitled "The Hobo 
Knows." In it one can detect an unfamiHar note of 
resignation, the resignation of an old man who has 
hoped and struggled, and learned. 

He knows the whirr of the rolling wheels, 
And their click on the time-worn joints; 

His ear is attuned to the snap and snarl 
Of the train, at the rickety points. 

He knows the camp by the side of the road. 
And the "Java" and "mulligan" too; 

The siding long, and the water tank 
Are as home to me and you. 

He knows the fright of hunger and thirst. 

And of cold and of rain as well; 
Of raggedy clothes and out-worn shoes. 

An awful tale he can tell. 

He knows what it means to slave all day, 

And at night eat the vilest of fare; 
What a tale he can tell of loathsome bunks. 

Cramped quarters, and noisome air. 

He knows what the end of it all will be 
When he crosses the hne at the goal; 

A rough, pine box, and a pauper's grave 
And he has paid his toll. 

THE hobo's observations AND REFLECTIONS 

The poets who have written best about the tramp 
are those who have recorded their reflections on their 
own life and his. Robert W. Service sees in "The 



Men That Don't Fit In" a great group of wanderers 
who move here and there in response to an imperious 

There's a race of men that don't fit in, 

A race that can't stay still; 
So they break the hearts of kith and kin. 

And roam the world at will. 
They range the field and they rove the flood. 

And they climb the mountain crest, 
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood. 

And they don't know how to rest. 

If they just went straight they might go far; 

They are strong and brave and true; 
But they're always tired of the things that are 

And they want the strange and new. 
They say, " Could I find my proper groove 

What a deep mark I would make!" 
So they chop and change, and each fresh move 

Is only a fresh mistake. 

And each forgets as he strips and runs 

With a brilliant, fitful pace, 
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones 

Who win the lifelong race. 
And each forgets that his youth has fled. 

Forgets that his prime is past. 
Till he stands one day with a hope that's dead, 

In the glare of the truth at last.^ 

There are men in the tramp class who are always 
chasing rainbows, always expecting to strike it 
rich" sometime and somewhere. Bill Quirke, for 
many years contributor to the Hobo News, gives 
expression to this sentiment in the poem, "One Day; 
Some Way, Til Make a Stake." This poem was 

^ From The Spell of the Yukon, p. 15, by Robert W. Service, author of Ballads 
of a Cheechakoy Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, and Ballads of a Bohemian, published 
by Barse & Hopkins, Newark, N.J. 



written a few months before Bill was killed by an 
automobile in California. From the heart of it we 

For years I've drilled the rough pathway, 
And weathered many a wintry blast, 

ril make another stake some day 
For luck must turn my way at last. 

Fm far too old for working, too 

They say my work is almost through; 

My ore assesses never a flake 

But still I hope to make a stake. 

In the Hobo News of August, 1921, Charles Thorn- 
burn records his reflections while he contemplates the 
empty, beaten faces of the men of the *'stem": 

With ever restless tread, they come and go. 

Or lean intent against the grimy wall, 
These men whom fate has battered to and fro, 

In the grim game of life, from which they all 
Have found so much of that which is unkind, 

Still hoping on, that fortune yet may mend. 
With sullen stare, and features hard and lined. 

They wander off to nowhere, and the end. 

Their thoughts we may not fathom, in their eyes 

One seems to sense a vision, as though fate 
Had let one little glimpse of fairer skies 

Brighten their souls before she closed the gate. 
Yet have they hopes and dreams which bring them peace, 

Adding to life's flat liquor just the blend 
Called courage, that their efforts may not cease 

To seek the gold, hid at the rainbow's end. 

"The Wanderer" is from the pen of Charles 
Ashleigh. It is said to have been written in jail. It 
is a justification, not complete, of the hobo principle 
of living for the day and by the day, of enjoying 



the sweets of life, if they can be secured, and of 
avoiding its problems. 

Is there no voice to speak for these, our kin; 

The strange, wild sorrows for the wanderer's soul; 
The shining comradeship we sometimes win 

When on our wilful way to visioned goals ? 

We are the ones to whom the forests speak, 
For whom the little by-streets run awry; 

Ships are our mistresses, and vaulted peaks 
Draw us unconquered to the tyrant sky. 

And what if we in sordid corners sink. 

Or perish in the crash of lawless fight; 
Our souls have had the wine of life to drink, 

We've had our blazing day. Let come the night. 

The hobo characterizes the district where the 
employment agencies are located as the "slave 
market." Louis Melis, prominent in Hobohemia 
as a soap-boxer, has written a poem entitled "The 
Slave Market" from which the following verses 
have been taken: 

The Slave Market 

This is the city of lost dreams and defeated hopes; 

Always you are the mecca of the Jobless, 

The seekers after life and the sweet illusions of happiness. 

Within your walls there are the consuming 

Fires of pain, sorrow and eternal regrets. 

Roses never bloom here; silken petals 

Cannot be defiled. 

Streets in ragged attire, sang-froid in their violence; 
Years come and go; still your hideousness goes on 
And mute outcasts garnish 
Your every rendezvous. 

Blind pigs, reeking with a nauseous smell everywhere; 
The so-called "flops," the lousy beds 



Where slaves of mill and mine and rail and shop 

Curl up and drop away unconscious, 

In fair pretense of sleep. 

Employment sharks entrapping men, 

Human vultures in benign disguise, 

Auctioning labor at a pittance per day. 

And it's always "What will you give ?" 

"What will you take ?" 

The pocketing of fat commissions; 

Old men, young men, tramps, bums, hobos, 

Laborers seeking jobs or charity 

Each visioning happiness from afar. 

They swarm the city streets, these slaves, 

For all must live and strive, 

And always the elusive job sign 

Greets their contemplative glance. 

A job — food, clothing, shelter; 

Wage slaves selling their power; 

Oh, you Slave Market, I know you! 

From timbered lands. North, East, South and West 

From distant golden grain belts, 

From endless miles of rail. 

These workers float to the city. 

Timber beasts, harvesters, gandy dancers — 

Adventurers all. From every clime and zone. 

Each comes with hope of work or 

Else to blow his pile. 


There are many types of tramp songs but most con- 
spicuous are the songs of protest. The I.W.W. have 
done much to stimulate song writing, mostly songs of 
the struggle between the masses and the classes. 

Most hobo songs are parodies on certain popular 
airs or on hymns. One can easily determine when 
certain songs were written if he knows when certain 
popular airs, to which they are fitted, were the rage. 



The tunes most used by the tramp song writers are 
those that are so well known that the song may be 
sung by any group of transients. When the songs 
are parodies on hymns there is usually a note of 
irony running through them. The following is called 
the hobo's "Harvest War Song." It was written 
by Pat Brennan and is sung to the tune of 

We are coming home, John Farmer; We are coming back to stay. 
For nigh on fifty years or more, we've gathered up your hay. 
We have slept out in your hayfields; we have heard your morn- 
ing shout; 

We've heard you wondering where in hell's them pesky go- 
abouts ? 


It's a long way, now understand me; it's a long way to town; 
It's a long way across the prairies, and to hell with Farmer 

Here goes for better wages, and the hours must come down. 
For we're out for a winter's stake this summer, and we want no 
scabs around. 

You've paid the going wages, that's what kept us on the bum, 
You say you've done your duty, you chin-whiskered son-of-a-gun. 
We have sent your kids to college, but still you rave and shout 
And call us tramps and hobos, and pesky go-abouts. 

But now the long wintry breezes are a-shaking our poor frames, 
And the long drawn days of hunger try to drive us bos insane, 
It is driving us to action; we are organized today; 
Us pesky tramps and hobos are coming back to stay. 

Joe Hill, whose real name was Joseph Hilstrom, 
holds the place of honor among the I.W.W.'s as a song 
writer. Before his death he was one of the most 
enthusiastic of the I.W.W. organizers. His execution 
in Utah in 191 5 has not lessened his popularity among 



the "Wobblies/* Most of his songs are 
"The Tramp" is a parody on the old tune: 
Tramp, Tramp; the Boys Are Marching/* 

If you will shut your trap, 
I will tell you 'bout a chap, 
That was broke and up aginst it too for fair; 
He was not the kind to shirk. 
He was looking hard for work, 
But he heard the same old story everywhere. 


Tramp, tramp, tramp, keep on a-tramping. 
Nothing doing here for you; 
If I catch you 'round again; 
You will wear the ball and chain. 
Keep on tramping, that's the best thing you can do. 

He walked up and down the street, 

'Till the shoes fell off his feet; 

In a house he spied a lady cooking stew, 

And he said, "How do you do. 

May I chop some wood for you ?" 

What the lady told him made him feel so blue. 

'Cross the street a sign he read, 

"Work for Jesus," so it said, 

And he said, "Here is my chance, I'll surely try," 

And he kneeled upon the floor. 

Till his knees got rather sore. 

But at eating time he heard the preacher say: 

Down the street he met a cop, 
And the copper made him stop. 

And he asked him, "When did you blow into town ?" 

"Come with me to the judge." 

But the judge he said, "Oh fudge! 

Bums that have no money needn't come around." 


"The Preacher and the Slave,'' also written by 
Joe Hill and sung to the tune of "Sweet Bye and 



Bye," is especially popular among the malcontents 
because of its attack upon religion: 

Long haired preachers come out every night, 
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right; 
But when asked how 'bout something to eat 
They will answer in voices so sweet: 


You will eat bye and bye 

In that glorious land above the sky; 

Work and pray, live on hay. 

You'll get pie in the sky when you die. 

And the starvation army, they play, 
And they sing and they clap and they pray. 
Till they get all your coin on the drum. 
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum: 

Workingmen of all countries, unite. 
Side by side we for freedom will fight; 
When the world and its wealth we have gained 
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain: 

Last Chorus 

You will eat bye and bye 

When you've learned how to cook and to fry; 

Chop some wood, 'twill do you good. 

And you will eat in the sweet bye and bye. 

The "Portland County Jail" is one of the few 
songs of the road that does not wear out. 

I'm a stranger in your city, 

My name is Paddy Flynn; 
I got drunk the other evening. 

And the coppers run me in. 



I had no money to pay my fine, 

No friends to go my bail, 
So I got soaked for ninety days 

In the Portland County Jail. 


Oh, such a lot of devils, 

The like I never saw; 
Robbers, thieves, and highwaymen, 

And breakers of the law. 
They sang a song the whole night long, 

And the curses fell like hail, 
I'll bless the day they take me away 

From the Portland County Jail. 

The only friend that I had left. 

Was Happy Sailor Jack; 
He told me all the lies he knew. 

And all the safes he's cracked. 
He cracked them in Seattle; 

He'd robbed the Western Mail; 
It would freeze the blood of an honest man, 

In the Portland County Jail. 


The characteristic hobo is an optimist who sees 
the humorous side of many an unpleasant or danger- 
ous situation. The average seasoned "bo" with full 
stomach and money in his pocket can enjoy to the 
full the never-ending series of happenings on West 
Madison Street. If there is nothing else, he can be 
amused at the other man*s predicament. Many of 
these humorous experiences have found their way into 

The hobo is ironic even in the face of death. The 
following poem, by an unknown writer, caricatures 
the contrast between the sentiment and the reality 
of the hoboes existence. 



The Hobo's Last Lament 

Beside a Western water-tank 

One cold November day, 
Inside an empty box-car, 

A dying hobo lay; 
His old pal stood beside him, 

With low and drooping head. 
Listening to the last words. 

As the dying hobo said: 

"I am going to a better land, 

Where everything is bright, 
Where beef-stews grow on bushes 

And you sleep out every night; 
And you do not have to work at all. 

And never change your socks. 
And streams of goodly whiskey 

Come trickling down the rocks. 

"Tell the bunch around Market street. 

That my face, no more, they'll view; 
Tell them I've caught a fast freight, 

And that I'm going straight on through. 
Tell them not to weep for me. 

No tears in their eyes must lurk; 
For I'm going to a better land, 

Where they hate the word called work. 

"Hark! I hear her whisthng, 

I must catch her on the fly; 
I would like one scoop of beer 

Once more before I die." 
The hobo stopped, his head fell back, 

He'd sung his last refrain; 
His old pal stole his coat and hat 

And caught an East-bound train.' 

A. W. Dragstedt, a prominent personality in 
Chicago's Hobohemia, is a man who goes and comes 

' Hobo NewSy June, 191 7. 



when he pleases. According to hobo custom, he goes 
to the country each summer, but he usually spends 
his leisure in town. He is an optimist. The follow- 
ing two verses were written at a time when he was 
down but not downhearted. 

It takes a very little for me to be happy; 

The world has a smile for each day that goes by; 
My diet of coffee and doughnuts so snappy, 

Makes me very clever and mentally spry. 

My shoes are but uppers, pants full of patches; 

My stomach feels pleased when I fill it with soup; 
When sleepy and tired my slumber I snatches. 

In haystacks and hallways; sometimes in the coop. 

"No Matter Where You Go" is a humorous 
presentation of the futility of wandering. Where to 
go next when the hobo wants to move is always a 
problem. Usually the "bo" gives an unfavorable 
report of the district he has just left. 

Things are dull in San Francisco, 

"On the bum" in New Orleans; 
"Rawther punk" in cultured Boston, 

Famed for codfish, pork, and beans. 
"On the hog" in Kansas City; 

Out in Denver things are jarred; 
And they're "beefing" in Chicago 

That the times are rather hard. 

Not much doing in St. Louis; 

It's the same in Baltimore; 
Coin don't rattle in Seattle 

As it did in days of yore. 
Jobs are scarce around Atlanta 

All through Texas it is still. 
And there's very little stirring 

In the town of Louisville. 



There's a howl from Cincinnati, 

New York City, Brooklyn too; 
In Milwaukee's foamy limits 

There is little work to do. 
In the face of all such rumors. 

It seems not amiss to say 
That no matter where you're going 

You had better stay away. 


In song and ballad the hobo expresses life as he 
feels and sees it. Through poetry he creates a back- 
ground of tradition and culture which unifies and gives 
significance to all his experiences. His ballads of 
the road and his battle songs of protest induce a 
unanimity of sentiment and attitudes, the strongest 
form of group solidarity in the hobo world. 

Through the universal language of poetry the 
homeless man bridges the chasm of isolation that 
separates him from his fellows. In song and ballad 
he communicates his memories and his hopes to men 
everywhere who, fascinated by his experiences, per- 
ceive in them only a different expression of the human 
wishes of every person. 



"TRILLING time'' is a problem with the homeless 
man. The movie and the burlesque are the 
only forms of commercialized amusements within 
the range of his purse. Even these are only patron- 
ized infrequently and by a few. For the vast 
majority there is no pastime save the passing show 
of the crowded thoroughfare. Most of them spend 
their leisure time shuffling along the street reading 
the menu cards in the cheap restaurants, or in other 
forms of "window shopping." Sometimes they stray 
out of the "stem" into the Loop. Perhaps they 
will go to the parks and lie on the grass, or to the 
lake front where they may sit down and look out on 
the water. 

The homeless man, as he meanders along the 
street, is looking for something to break the monot- 
ony. He will stand on the curb for hours, watching 
people pass. He notices every conspicuous person 
and follows with interest, perhaps sometimes with 
envy, the wavering movements of every passing 
drunk. If a policeman stops anyone on the street, 
he also stops and listens in. If he notices a man 
running into an alley his curiosity is aroused. 
Wherever he sees a group gathered, he lingers. He 
will stop to listen if two men are arguing. He will 
spend hours sitting on the curb talking with a 
congenial companion. 

During the summer, time hangs heavier on the 
hobo's hands than in winter. In cold weather, he 
is usually hard pressed to find food and shelter. If 
the inclement weather overtakes him without funds 




and jobless, and this is generally the case, he is 
absorbed with the problem of "getting by." He is 
driven to his wits' end to find a warm place to sleep 
at night and a comfortable place to loaf during the 
day. It oftens takes a whole day's scouting to 
find a place to sleep at night and food enough to 
appease his gnawing and growling stomach. 

There are homeless men who have time on their 
hands even in winter. They are those who have 
the rare ability to save enough in summer to live 
in winter. The parks are no longer inviting. The 
soap-box orators have either gone out of business or 
are forced indoors. The hobo follows them and, 
where he can afford it, helps to support them inside 
much as he did in the open. He spends more time 
in the movies and burlesques and will sit for half a 
day at times watching one show. 

Listening to speeches is a popular pastime in 
Hobohemia. Nothing, unless it is reading, occupies 
so much of the homeless man's leisure time. 


pobohemia knows but two types of speakers — 
the soap-box orator and the evangelist. The evange- 
list has been longer on the job. Religious speakers 
are usually associated with established organizations, 
or they represent mission groups of which there are 
many varieties on the "stem." There are evange- 
lists who adhere to no faith or creed. They are 
"free lances," as most hobo speakers are, only their 
message is a religious one. Few of these latter take 
contributions, and seldom do they essay to make con- 
verts in the sense of having a following. They are 
enthusiasts driven into the streets with the irresistible 





urgency of their message. In Hobohemia, where 
time hangs heavy on the hoboes hands, there is an 
audience for every message. 

In a later chapter' the role of the evangelist 
in the life of Hobohemia is considered; here we are 
interested in the soap-box orators whose message is 
secular rather than other-worldly. The man on the 
soap box is a reformer or a revolutionist, seeking to 
change conditions. The missionary, on the other 
hand, is seeking less to change conditions than to 
change mankind. This is the basis of the conflict 
between their rival doctrines. The soap-boxers may 
contend with each other concerning what is best for 
the down-and-out in the here and now, but they are 
unanimous in their opposition to the "sky pilots" 
and the "mission squawkers." They maintain that 
it is more important to enjoy life here than to live 
on the prospect of joy hereafter. They have lost 
patience with the preacher because he only promises 
"pie in the sky when you die," and they want the 
pie now. 

The men and women who bring religion to the 
tramp in Hobohemia have taken root in the life of the 
"stem." Their street singing, their preaching and 
praying, although little heeded by the hobo, would 
be greatly missed if absent. But the missionary, 
transplanted from another area of life, remains more 
or less of an alien. The soap-box reformer is no less 
of an institution and he is, moreover, native to the 
soil. He is closer to the actual life and mundane 
interests of the homeless man. He stands on the 
curbstone and publishes his opinions on the great 
questions of the day in a positive and convincing 

^ Chapter xvii, "Missions and Welfare Organizations." 



manner, and his ideas are generally couched in lan- 
guage that the man on the street can understand. 
The hobo's intellectual interests revolve about the 
problem of labor. The soap-box orator is the hobo's 
principal source of information on this topic. 

Soap-boxers are "free lances'* most of the time. 
Either they are out of harmony with all organiza- 
tions or no organization has been willing to adopt 
them. Those who make street speaking a profession 
are a great deal like the ancient sophists. They are 
able to plead one cause today and a different cause 
/ tomorrow. Their allegiance is to be had by any 
group that can make the proper bid. With some of 
them the inducement must be a financial one, while 
others are interested only in ideas. If the idea 
attracts them they will take up the new angle of the 
subject with the same enthusiasm that they did the 
old. In this respect they are influenced by public 
opinion. They love to harangue the crowds but they 
like to have the crowd on their side. 


Soap-boxers usually take themselves seriously, 
though their audiences do not always do so. They 
take themselves seriously in spite of their frequent 
and often abrupt changes in positions on the issues 
they discuss. They are usually made to explain 
these changes, and these explanations, if not always 
logical, are usually sincere. They invariably give 
their best thoughts on the subject they discuss. 
Whatever they have gleaned from the available 
sources they are striving to express in language that 
is live and understandable to the man on the street. 
These efforts to clear the issues, to spread propaganda 



or whatever it may be called, is termed by the soap- 
boxers, "education." 

Not all the "stem" intellectuals who assume the 
burden of educating the proletariat use the soap 
box. Many of them wield the pen. The latter are, 
in the main, free-lance writers, and most of their 
productions are tinctured with "red." But they 
are generally able to catch the ear of the down-and- 
out, whether he is a hobo or not. The writings of 
these cloistered radicals, who are striving to bring 
the chaotic proletariat to a unity of the faith, provide 
the soap-box pulpiteer with facts and ideas which 
he interprets and passes on to his curbstone audience 
in the shape of poems, songs, articles, and essays. 
The writers provide, for them, an abundance of 
material out of which the orators build their castles. 
Most of these literary radicals are optimistic about 
the success of their efforts to "get the worker's mind 
right," and thus prepare him for the new order. 
The masses must be educated, but the soap-boxer, 
whose burden it is, must himself be educated, and 
that is the job of the writer who works behind the 

Just how much education the Hobohemian pro- 
letariat gets from this speaking and reading is not 
easily estimated. They learn something about the 
class struggle, industrial organization, and politics. 
Sometimes an observation on science or literature 
or art will fall from a speaker's lips, but most of 
these observations are new only to the stranger in 
the class. The old-timer, however, hears only old 
ideas restated; or, at best, new facts and figures 
interpreted to support old ideas. It is like a game 
with a limited number of pieces and a limited number 



of moves. Sometimes, to be sure, a speaker 
endeavors to serve "science*' to the "floating frater- 
nity." Lectures on biology, psychology, sociology, 
or economics may be heard any evening or holiday 
during the summer. Most of these lectures go over 
the heads of the audience, and it is questionable 
whether the speakers have sufficient background to 
speak intelligently of the sciences they are attempting 
to expound. 

This effort to educate the proletariat is, never- 
theless, not altogether without results. It gives 
men something to occupy their minds. It gives them 
some understanding of their common interests; 
creates a certain amount of solidarity and, perhaps, 
best of all, "kills time." Some speakers realize this 
and declare that the soap box is primarily a kind of 
entertainment. One man makes it a point to try 
to amuse his crowd as well as to "instruct" them. 
"YouVe got to keep *em interested. You have to 
amuse them and make 'em laugh before you can get 
any ideas into their heads. Whenever things get 
dry, I leave an opening for a drunk or someone to 
ask me a question or crack a joke, and interest picks 
up again." 

An Afternoon Series of Soap-Box Orations 

60. During a Sunday in July, 1922, no less than twenty men 
spoke on the box at the corner of Jefferson and Madison streets; 
and as many topics were treated. In the afternoon the following 
speakers shared the time: 

I. The meeting was opened by a man who borrowed a box 
from a nearby fruit stand. He tried to get another man to 
speak first so that he would not have to hurt his voice gathering 
the crowd, but no one cared to start. He talked for twenty 
minutes about graft in the patent-medicine trade. He had a very 
catchy speech well tempered with humor and he gathered a big 



crowd. Evidently he had made a study of the patent-medicine 
business and his speech was an "exposure" of the game. He 
finished by selhng some pamphlets dealing with the subject. 

2. The second speaker was an I.W.W. who talked for fifteen 
minutes on education. He was a good talker and held the crowd. 
He wound up by selling some I.W.W. literature and periodicals 
in which the thoughts of economists had been reduced from the 
difficult academic language to the understanding of the man on 
the street. He also passed out some literature, i.e., old issues 
of the Solidarity, and I.W.W. papers. 

3. Another I.W.W. talked twenty minutes on organization. 
He argued that the rich man organizes and for that reason is 
successful. He does not want the poor man at the bottom to 
organize because he fears that he will not be able to keep him 
at the bottom. He didn't blame the rich man for organizing; 
he blamed the poor man for not organizing. He gave some 
literature away and sold some. 

4. A speech on superstition followed. It lasted twenty 
minutes and was aimed at a mission group that was holding a 
meeting across the street. The argument was that the Bible and 
the church were the most powerful instruments in the hands of rich 
men for keeping the poor man down. No collection was taken. 

5. A twenty-minute speech on the economic organization of 
industry was given by a man who took great pains to remind the 
crowd that he had spent seven years to learn all about it. He 
made a plea for the co-operation of labor to combat the organi- 
zation of capital. No collection was taken. 

6. The next man argued that the unemployment problem is 
caused by two things; the overcrowding of population and the 
concentration of wealth into the hands of a few. Eighty-five 
per cent of the people had but 15 per cent of the wealth and 15 
per cent of the people had 85 per cent of the wealth or more than 
they could possibly consume. This man usually takes up a 
collection on the ground that he is handicapped physically, but 
he did not on this occasion. He spoke for twenty minutes. 

7. No more speakers wanted the box so a drunk got on the 
stand and asked for the attention of the crowd. He furnished 
amusement for fifteen minutes. He was witty but easily led 
from subject to subject. 

No speaker talked long enough to bore the crowd. Each 
speaker, when he had finished, yielded the box to his successor. 



The crowd was a characteristic Hobohemian gathering, willing 
to stand so long as they could be interested. Like most such 
gatherings, it kept diminishing and increasing in size. Some 
would stand in front and listen for an hour while others would 
only stop a few minutes on the outer edge of the gathering. The 
reaction to the speakers was for the most part sympathetic. 
Occasionally a man on the sidelines would be seen to frown 
disapproval but it is the habit of those who are not interested 
to worm their way out of the group and go their way. 

While the sixth speaker of the above list was talking the 
crowd was attracted to the side by a discussion between one of 
the previous speakers and another man. The argument attracted 
so many listeners that the speaker was irritated and he called to 
one of the men engaged in the discussion, "Say B — , do you 
think that's a square deal "Sorry C — , I didn't know we were 
disturbing you." The crowd on the side dispersed and gathered 
around the speaker on the box. 


Just as there are certain unwritten laws that are 
found in the jungle camps, so there are unwritten 
laws that the soap-boxer observes. Regardless of 
how much they differ in their schemes, they are 
seldom personal in their opposition to one another. 
Soap-boxers behave toward one another when not on 
the box much as lawyers do when they are out of the 
courtroom, and even while on the box they consider 
one another's interests. For example, a speaker 
in resigning the rostrum to his successor will fre- 
quently close with some such statement as this: 
"Fd like to talk longer on this subject but there are 
other speakers here and they have something to say 
that you might like to hear." 

The practice of taking up personal collections is 
looked down upon by most curbstone speakers. 
They feel that the soap box should not be exploited. 
Collections are not always approved by the audiences. 



Some men label their speeches "lectures'' and "pass 
the hat" on the ground that they have spent years 
in getting the information. When they "perform 
the hat trick on the ^simpoleons' [simpletons]" they 
regard it as a compensation for the role they play as 
educators. They chew fine the complex intellectual 
food so that it may be taken up by the untrained 
and unlearned. But unpopular as is the practice 
of collecting money, it is not a barrier. The audience 
is exceedingly tolerant toward the hat-passer and 
more so if he has a good "line" of talk, or if he is 

Most men who talk to Hobohemian crowds make 
their living by selling some kind of literature. Some- 
times they sell pamphlets they have written them- 
selves, or they sell pamphlets or periodicals on a 
commission. Getting money in this way is not 
unpopular among the soap-boxers. It is a practice 
that is rather favored, for it is the best way of getting 
the down-and-out to thinking, and if the soap-box 
orators are united on any one thing it is this: that 
the proletariat must be educated. 

One of the favorite methods of distributing litera- 
ture is to sell it from the box. Enthusiastic persons 
in the crowd often buy a paper and pay for several 
others to be distributed from the box. Sometimes 
a man will take the stand and dispose of a hundred 
papers or pamphlets in a few moments by persuading 
those who have money to buy for those who have none. 

A man who entertains the "slum proletariat" 
need not be without status because he lives by street 
speaking. Most of them either directly or indirectly 
earn their living in this way, though many of them 
would not admit it. If a man can plead the cause 



of the under dog to the satisfaction of the man on 
the street, if he has a philosophy that pleases the 
crowd, and if he can present it in an attractive 
manner, very few resent his passing the hat. 

So with all their contentiousness the soap-box 
orators manage to keep on speaking terms, and rather 
informally turn favors to one another. Seldom do 
they "knock" one another, and seldom do they 
crowd one another away from a corner or place one 
another in embarrassing positions. In this they have 
gone farther toward reaching a unity of purpose than 
the various mission groups who compete on opposite 
corners for the same crowds. 

It must not be thought that soap-boxing is a game 
that is without its tricks. There are tricks for 
getting the crowds, tricks of holding the crowds, and 
tricks for exploiting the crowds. Speakers do not 
like to be the first one up on the box, nor do they like 
to be the last one up when the crowd has become tired. 
If a man wants to pass the hat, it is to his advantage 
to get the first chance at the crowd. Men will do 
considerable jockeying to get on the box just when 
they think it will be to their advantage. 


Street speakers who stand before the same audi- 
ences one or more times a week throughout the 
year tend to wear out. Some of them are resourceful 
enough to find something new to say, but others 
find it difficult to say old things in a new way, so 
they are likely to fall into the habit of repeating 
themselves. Sometimes they try to keep from grow- 
ing stale by speaking in as many places as possible, 
but since their audiences are limited to the Hobo- 



hemian population they are always talking to a 
number who have heard them say the same things 
before. After a speaker has made the rounds of all 
the corners he is forced to get a new "line." 

Some men, however, persist in delivering old 
thread-bare messages in their old, well-worn way. 
The speeches of some men are so well known that] 
the only interest is one of curiosity. The crowd' 
listens to see if anything was left out. The hobby 
of one free-lance speaker is Henry George and the 
Single Tax. To the crowd he is the and P" 
man, because he usually ends his speeches by selling 
copies of Progress and Poverty at "cost." Everyone 
who has been in town long enough to become 
acquainted with the principal soap-boxers is familiar 
with this man's "line," but usually he hears him again, 
partly, perhaps, because of his apparent sincerity. 

Most soap-boxers, when they find themselves 
growing stale, are able to change. B's hobby for 
a long time has been a speech on birth control, 
which he followed by selling some books on sex, but 
he wore this subject out and recently changed to a 
speech on superstition at the close of which he sells 
literature of an anti-religious nature. Another 
speaker whose speech on patent medicine and quack 
doctors finally lost its novelty is now talking on 
birth control. Another has gone from trade union- 
ism to the Ku Klux Klan. An old-timer on Madison 
Street said of a certain speaker: "That man used 
to be with the I.W.W.; then he went over to How's 
organization and now he's free lancing." "What is 
his line now?" is a question that is commonly 
asked in regard to a soap-box pulpiteer. They are 
expected to change. 



In search of variety and for financial reasons, 
free lancers of ability hire out as campaigners for the 
political parties. "Where is John L. now?" asks 
one man. "Oh, he's up in Wisconsin campaigning 
for Senator LaFollette. Last month he was in 
Missouri stumping for Senator Reed." John carried 
credentials from both the Democrats and Republi- 
cans and he can plead the cause of either. 

The role of the soap-boxer, like that of the ancient 
sophist, is that of instructor or entertainer. Men 
go in search of these curbstone gatherings. On 
Sundays and holidays the crowd expects them. 
Homeless men who have a job in the city during the 
week spend the Sunday on the "stem" partly in 
order to hear the evangelists and soap-boxers. It 
is their life. They like to see old friends on the street, 
but they like especially to see familiar faces on the 


The open forum is a place, usually indoors, where 
persons may gather in formal meeting to discuss 
topics of interest. It is usually a winter retreat for 
the soap-boxers and their followers. In order to 
maintain a forum it is necessary to hire a hall and 
govern themselves by some sort of organization. 
The "Hobo College" is probably the most con- 
spicuous open forum in Chicago. It is but a branch 
of a chain of "colleges" that are maintained in the 
larger cities of the country by the wealth of James 
Eads How, the "millionaire hobo." It has oper- 
ated in Chicago nearly every winter since 1907. 
Scarcely a soap-boxer in Chicago has not at some 
time been associated with this institution. Many 
of them at some time have either been officers or 



leading lights of the "college/* The I.W.W. generally 
maintains a hall where a forum is conducted during 
the winter, though it does not offer the variety of 
discussion and subjects that the "college" does. 

The forum is far from being a harmonious nestling 
ground for hibernating soap-boxers. It is rather a 
veritable battle ground of contending factions. 
These advocates of the "new society" who agree and 
disagree so smilingly in the open often become caustic 
and bitter in their attacks when forced to share the 
same hall. There close association generates factions 
and cliques. There are always the "ins" and the 
"outs." New leaders are ever getting the chair, 
and old policies are constantly replaced. The 
"Hobo College" for the winter of 1922-23 had no 
less than six secretaries in as many months and three 
complete "house cleanings." 

The order of procedure at the "Hobo College" 
is practically the same as in most of the open forums. 
Meetings are held on the afternoons or evenings at 
set dates, or there is a regular program of a certain 
number of meetings a week. On Sunday two 
meetings are often held. Meetings and programs 
are advertised in conspicuous places. The meetings 
are so arranged that there is time at the end of the 
principal speech for criticism, remarks, or questions 
from the floor, after which the speaker has an oppor- 
tunity to defend himself. If distinguished visitors 
are present, they are usually called upon. Meetings 
at the "Hobo College" are different from most 
forums in that they usually terminate with a lunch. 

The open forum has some advantages over the 
street meetings. The group is more select and less 
transient. A subject for discussion is viewed from 



various angles by different speakers who have come 
at least partially prepared. On the soap box the 
problem of disciplining the crowd is left entirely to 
the speaker. Once he loses their interest they either 
harass him or desert him. In the forum the audience 
is honor bound to remain until the speaker has 
finished. In the open forum speakers may be invited 
who are supposed to lend a certain distinction to the 
occasion. No one can lend distinction to a soap box. 
Not the least advantage of the forum over the soap 
box is that most of the audience can participate in the 
meeting. The disadvantage is that it is not so 
accessible and hence becomes exclusive. 

The question is often asked, "How do soap- 
boxers get initiated into the game of outdoor speak- 
ing?" For most of them the answer is, "In the 
open forum." In the open forum the beginners, the 
aspirants, learn to take part in the discussions. 
They learn here to find words to express themselves. 
In the forum they take sides and learn to defend 
or oppose propositions, and they learn to order and 
present their thoughts. 

The forum has been described as a refuge for 
the hibernating soap-boxer. It is more than a 
refuge; it is a study center. It is to the free-lance 
speaker what a summer school is to the teacher; 
an opportunity to relax and "polish up." 


Soap-boxers all say that they have enjoyed more 
liberty in Chicago than in most cities. Chicago 
police have always taken a generous and liberal 
attitude toward the curbstone forum. A man who 
has been prominent in several free-speech fights says: 


The free-lance speaker is a great help to the police in this 
town. It's easier to handle these crowds when they have some- 
one to listen to. When a man gets restless, it gives him some- 
thing to think about. If you don't believe it just go into a town 
where the soap-boxer is suppressed and see how bitter the "bos" 

The role of the soap-boxer is to make hobos 
think. He succeeds to a greater extent in this than 
we reahze. In his efforts to hold his audience for 
half an hour he throws off a great many ideas. Much 
of this ammunition is fired in the air, but not all of 
it. What he actually does is to keep the minds of 
his hearers on objective things. Otherwise their 
thoughts would turn inward, and for the homeless 
man introspection is not a pleasant pastime. 

It is probably true that the soap-box orator 
makes no permanent impression on his audience. 
He does, to be sure, give voice to some ill-defined 
sentiments in which all are agreed. But no practical 
unanimity is ever achieved. This agitation starts 
no mass movement. There has never been an effec- 
tive permanent organization among hobos. The 
very nature of the hobo mind resents every kind of 
discipline that any form of organization would 
impose. He is by circumstance, tradition, and 
temperament an individualist. 

What of the soap-box reformer and revolutionist ? 
Is he a menace or merely a joke ? The curbstone 
orator is not an agitator in the ordinary sense of that 
word. He is merely a thinking hobo. In him the 
homeless man becomes articulate. It is something to 
these outcast men to hear in these curbstone forums 
the reverberations of their own unuttered thoughts. 
It is something to the homeless man merely to have 
a voice. 



/ 'T^HE hobo is an individualistic person. Not even 
JL the actors and artists can boast a higher propor- 
tion of egocentrics. They are the modern Ishmaels 
who refuse to fit into the routine of conventional 
social life. Resenting every sort of social discipHne, 
they have "cut loose" from organized society. 

For them there is only the open road which offers 
an existence without discipline, without organization, 
without control. To the restless and dissatisfied the 
life of a vagabondage is a challenge, the most elemen- 
tary way by which men seek to escape from reality. 

Out of this unrest, efforts have arisen through 
which the hobo has striven to materialize his dreams. 
Among the organizations initiated or promoted by 
migrants are the Industrial Workers of the World 
(I.W.W.), the International Brotherhood Welfare 
Association (I.B.W.A.), the Migratory Workers' 
Union (M.W.U.), the United Brotherhood ot Ameri- 
can Laborers, and the Ramblers. 


j The I.W.W. was formed in Chicago in July, 1905. 
Its headquarters are here and its conventions have 
almost invariably been held here. Chicago has been 
favored by the migratory radicals because it is a 
transportation center, and because of its tolerant 
attitude toward street speakers. 

Theoretically, the I.W.W. is an organization of 
all industrial workers, but it has been most enthusi- 
astically supported, however, by the hobos. It was 
conceived in the "stem," and cradled and nurtured 




by the floating workers. The hobo has always been 
identified with it and, in the West, has played a mili- 
tant role in fighting its battles. 

"The backwardness and unprogressiveness of 
trade unions as organized in the American Federation 
of Labor, and the impotency of trade union as organ- 
ized in the American Federation of Labor, and the 
impotency of political socialism to safeguard the 
ballot and provide the organs necessary to carry on 
production in the future society," are the reasons, on 
paper at least, for the existence of the LW.W. It is 
an effort to organize the workers along industrial 
lines, that is, to substitute, for trade unions, industrial 
unions for all the workers in one industry. All 
the industrial unions, metal-workers, construction- 
workers, seamen, agricultural- workers, it seeks to 
combine into one mammoth organization called the 
"One Big Union." 

The structure of the LW.W. is simple. The unit 
is the industrial local, which is composed of all the 
workers of an industry in a locality. The various 
locals of an industry combine to form an industrial 
department. The departments join together to form 
the "One Big Union." The organization is managed 
by a general secretary who is virtually the executive 
head. The general secretary-treasurer is assisted 
by an executive board elected by the six unions hav- 
ing the largest membership. A seventh member is 
elected by the other smaller unions. 

Some of the "wobbly" spokesmen boast of 100,000 
members, but that is an overestimate. The mem- 
bership is fluctuating and rises and falls with the 
seasons, but perhaps it has reached 100,000 at times. 
The membership is "on the road" most of the time, 



and even the locals are migratory, so that definite 
figures are not always at hand. The dues are fifty 
cents a month, so that many loyal members are not 
always in good standing. The members in good 
standing represent probably but a third or a fourth 
of the men who designate themselves I.W.W/s.^ 

When certain seasonal occupations begin, as the 
harvest fields, the construction camps, and lumbering 
camps, the organizers set to work enrolling members. 
Rumors circulate that no one will be permitted to 
work on certain jobs unless he carries a red card; 
that the "wobblies" will throw all non-members off 
freight trains; that all the other workers are taking 
out membership cards; that the employers of a 
certain district are going to cut the wages of transient 
labor, or that in other localities the wages are good 
because the I.W.W. will not permit anyone without 
a red card to work. 

The I.W.W. as an organization does not officially 
sanction methods of intimidation, and will take action 
against any cases brought to its attention. How- 
ever, force and fear get members. Men who are 
seeking work in a community on jobs over which the 
''wobblies'* have assumed control will take out 
cards to avoid conflict. Men will join the organiza- 
tion to facihtate "riding the rods." Memberships for 
convenience only are short lived, seldom enduring over 
the summer. 


The I.W.W. does not depend wholly on fear to 
win its members. The great appeal of the I.W.W., 

^ According to the financial statement for the I.W.W, for May and June 
of 1922, there were in good standing 18,234 members. This, it must be remem- 
bered, was just before the summer membership drive, which is said to have 
recruited over 18,000 additional members. 



as of all other radical organizations, is to the spirit 
of unrest that is a part of every hobo*s make-up. 
The I.W.W. program offers a ray of hope to the man 
who is down and out. Why the "wobbly" creed 
makes so stirring an appeal to the hobo may be best 
understood by quoting the preamble of its con- 

The working class and the employing class have nothing in 
common. There can be no peace as long as hunger and want are 
found among millions of the working people and the few, who 
make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. 

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the 
workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the 
earth and machinery of production, and abolish the wage 

We find that the centering of the management of industries 
into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to 
cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The 
trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of 
workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same 
industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars. 
Moreover the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead 
the workers into the belief that the working class have interests 
in common with their employers. 

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the work- 
ing class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way 
that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if 
necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any 
department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury 
to all. 

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for 
a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolu- 
tionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system." 

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with 
capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not 
only for the everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry 
on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. 
By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the 
new society within the shell of the old. 



The hobo, dissatisfied with things as they are, has 
no time to wait for the slow-moving processes of 
evolution. The preamble appeals to him because 
it is anti-evolutionary; it preaches the gospel of 
struggle and revolt. It is opposed to compromise 
and reconciliation, and affirms that the fight must 
go on as long as there is an employing class. No 
man, down-and-out, can hear this doctrine without 
a thrill. The declaration that no quarter shall be 
given to the capitalist is music to his ears. 

Every member of the I.W.W. is expected to be an 
agitator. Wherever he goes it is the mission of the 
"wobbly" to sow seeds of discontent and to harass 
the employer. Certain members go from job to job 
as "investigators." They usually remain long 
enough to start a disturbance among the regular 
employees, and to get discharged. Agitators regard 
a long list of dismissals as evidence of their success. 

Official agitators make no efl^ort at organizing. 
They merely "fan the flames of discontent" and pass 
on. They are followed by the pioneer organizer, an 
aggressive individual who starts the work of forming 
a local. He is of the militant type and often gets 
no farther than to arouse the men to the need of 
organization. Sooner or later he also gets dis- 
charged, which is to him evidence that he has "put 
it over." 

In the third stage of the offensive comes the real 
organizer. He follows the militants and reaps what 
they have sown. He works coolly and quietly in 
organizing the workers. He persuades and argues, 
but not in the open. The employer only learns of 
his presence when he has won over the men and is 
ready^to make a demand. 



Chicago's attitude to i.w.w. 

The I.W.W. is little understood by society in 
general. The public believes that it is an organiza- 
tion of "tramps who won't work," and that the 
initials stand for "I Won't Work/' or "I Want-*- 
Whiskey." It is true that many "wobblies" do 
want whiskey and many do not want work, but the 
organization is neither pro-whiskey nor anti-work. 
During the war the opposition to the organization 
was intense, and Chicago was a center of arrests and 
prosecutions. At present, however, the I.W.W. in 
Chicago enjoys a freedom for its activities not found 
in many other cities. 

There are two reasons for this tolerant attitude. 
In the first place. West Madison Street, where the 
I.W.W. is most active, is virtually isolated from 
other parts of the city. It is hemmed in on the 
north and south by factories, and on the east by the 
river. Then, too, Chicago is situated far from the 
battle grounds of the organization. The "wobblies" 
wage a yearly war, but it is with the farmers in the 
harvest belt, the lumber barons of the northwest, the 
contractors, the mine operators; but all these are 
remote from Chicago. If Chicago serves any part 
in this warfare it is the role of a winter training camp 
where the tactics of the summer campaign are worked 

international brotherhood welfare 

Next in importance to the I.W.W. is the hobo 
organization known as the International Brother- 
hood Welfare Association, or the I.B.W.A. Like 
the I.W.W. it started in 1905, but its membership 



at no time has exceeded 5,000. The I.B.W.A., 
Hke the I.W.W., looks forward to a new social order, 
a society in which there will be no classes. But where 
the I.W.W. proposes to use force and direct action or 
industrial organization to accomplish its purposes, 
the I.B.W.A. would use education. The I.B.W.A. 
stresses welfare work, brotherhood, and co-operation 
among the hobos. It aims to organize and educate 
the unorganized and uneducated homeless and mi- 
gratory workers. 

The I.B.W.A. is largely the creation of James 
Eads How, a member of a wealthy St. Louis family. 
How, dissatisfied with the ease and comfort of a rich 
man's life, left home and drifted into the group of 
hobos and tramps. Becoming interested in their 
problems, he set to work to better their condition. 
He conceived the idea of a great international hobo 
organization and converted several hobo soap- 
boxers" to his cause. The program of the I.B.W.A. 
is set forth in Article III of the constitution: 

A. To bring together the unorganized workers. 

B. To co-operate with persons and organizations who desire 
to better social conditions. 

C. To utilize unused land and machinery in order to provide 
work for the unemployed. 

D. To furnish medical, legal and other aid to its members. 

E. To organize the unorganized and assist them in obtain- 
ing work at remunerative wages and transportation when re- 

F. To educate the public mind to the right of collective 
ownership in production and distribution. 

G. To bring about the scientific, industrial, intellectual, 
moral and spiritual development of the masses. 

Another section of the constitution states that 
the organization aims to "unite the migratory 




workers, the Disemployed and the unorganized 
workers of both sexes for mutual betterment and 
development, with the final object of abolishing 
poverty and introducing a classless society." 

"hobo college" 

The most important of the auxiliary institutions 
of the I.B.W.A. is the "Hobo College." This unique 
institution is How's idea. How, as a strong believer 
in progress through education, desires to bring to the 
hobo worker the rudiments of the natural and social 
sciences. The "Hobo College" affords the migrant 
an opportunity to discuss topics of practical and 
vital interest to him, and to attend lectures by 
professors, preachers, and free-lance intellectuals. 

The "Hobo College" in Chicago^ has received 
considerable newspaper publicity. Like all the hobo 
colleges, the Chicago branch only operates in winter. 
During the summer most of the "students" are out 
of town at work on different migratory occupations. 


How's income, which he inherited, is at the disposal 
of the hobos, but it is "fed out" by degrees, according 
to the terms of the will. As the money comes into 
How's hands it is distributed and apportioned by 
the Holding Committee, which is composed of a 
member of the How family, a member of the "Hobo 
College," a member of the Junior League (a non- 

'The Chicago branch of the "Hobo College" is located at present (1922-23) 
at 913 West Washington Boulevard. It has taken the name temporarily of 
"Brotherhood College," because the owners of the property would not rent the 
hall so long as the word "hobo" was connected with the movement. The 
change was made rather reluctantly. The second and third floors are in use; 
the second floor for reading-room and kitchen, the third floor is a lecture-hall. 



functioning organization for boy tramps), and the 
acting secretary and all previous secretaries of the 
I.B.W.A. Most of this money goes to the support 
of the various organizations of the I.B.W.A., includ- 
ing the Hobo News. 

The Holding Committee also may contribute at 
times to the purchase of halls and other property, 
to transport delegates to and from conventions, or 
rather to pay their fare back after they have "beaten 
their way" to the meeting, and to promote propa- 
ganda. A plan is now on foot to maintain a lobby 
at Washington to support legislation in behalf of the 
hobo. One proposal is a federal labor exchange. 
The Holding Committee may and often does contrib- 
ute to other causes. 


One of How's ambitions is to establish hobo 
stopping places in all the principal cities of the 
country. Already he has opened "Hotels de Bum" 
in more than twenty cities. Some of them are 
owned by the I.B.W.A., but most of them only 
rented for the winter months. The "hotel" in 
Cincinnati is typical. It is a two-story frame 
building, located in the Hobohemian section of the 
city. The second floor, designed for "flopping," is 
equipped with about forty cots. The first floor is 
divided into a loafing- or reading-room and a kitchen. 
In the kitchen there are a gas range and enough 
pots and kettles to "boil up" clothes or cook a "mulli- 
gan." At the rear of the building is a small wood 
yard where ties and other wood are cut for the heater. 
The management of these hotels is left to the men 
who select a house committee from their number. 



The committee looks after the building and insists 
that the men keep the place clean. A small tax is 
imposed now and then to meet current expenses and 
to pay one man a small fee for looking after the 
accounts. The ordinary "mission stiff" cannot sur- 
vive long in an I.B.W.A. hotel. He usually leaves 
when asked to contribute his share toward the up- 
keep. But a man without money is welcome, if 
he does his part. Some of these hotels pay their 
way. Most of them, however, never meet expenses, 
but the deficit generally is made good by How. 


Whatever the future of the I.B.W.A., at present 
it is almost a one-man organization. Regardless of 
the ideals How entertains about democracy, he 
really controls the I.B.W.A. He does all this because 
he holds the purse. The I.B.W.A., with all its auxilia- 
ries, are dependent in the last analysis upon the funds 
of Dr. How. None of these institutions is self- 
supporting. The membership fees are not sufficient 
in many cases to cover the running expenses. The 
Chicago branch of the "Hobo College," for instance, 
has been one of the most active in the country, but 
it has never paid its way. How does not take advan- 
tage of the fact that his money maintains the institu- 
tion. He does not have as much to say about the 
disposition of funds as certain other members of the 
Holding Committee, but his right to impose his will 
upon the organization is ever present with the 

How has been persuaded at times to withhold 
funds from certain locals thought to be radical. He 
fears the I.W.W. who sometimes crowd into a local 



group and outvote the non-I.W.W. In such cases, 
How's money is used to spread their propaganda. 
The initiation fee of the I.B.W.A. is so small (ten cents 
and ten cents a month dues) that a large number of 
men may be enrolled for a few dollars. When the 
I.W.W. recently lost one of their halls in Chicago, 
they tried to work their way into the I.B.W.A., but 
the plot was found out and the books for the time 
being were closed. When How cuts off the rent 
allowance to a local it soon closes its doors. 

The fact that the I.B.W.A. is virtually How's 
organization has had interesting effects on the 
behavior of the members. Certain officials compete 
with one another to get into his good graces. Others 
take a stand in bitter opposition to him. There is 
always jealousy between those "who sit on the right 
hand and those who sit on the left hand." Individu- 
als in the various locals with a grievance write di- 
rectly to How. Complaints go to him more often 
than to general headquarters. 


The Migratory Workers' Union, or the M.W.U., 
composed wholly of hobos, was organized within the 
I.B.W.A. in 191 8. Some of the leaders of the 
I.B.W.A. felt that the older organization was neglect- 
ing the interests of the migratory worker. They 
charged that it was too much concerned with welfare 
work and too little with the organization of the 
workers. They converted How to the idea of a 
migratory workers' union and he contributed to its 

The originators of the M.W.U. had other ends in 
mind. They wanted to organize a powerful group 



of workers within the I.B.W.A. that would be able 
to dominate the conventions and bring pressure to 
bear on How. They hoped that the M.W.U. would 
grow to such proportions that How would fear it, 
and that he would not dare to use it as a "play- 
thing." Secondly, the M.W.U. was a scheme to 
get funds independently of the How allowance. 
Thirdly, the originators planned to organize the 
workers along industrial lines more effectively than 
had the I.W.W., which at the time was unpopular 
on account of its opposition to the war. Fourthly, 
the M.W.U., starting with a "clean slate" and a less 
radical program than the I.W.W., might attract the 
more moderate of its members who had lost faith in 
the revolutionary movement. The thought of win- 
ning over the lukewarm members of the I.W.W. was 
probably the argument that appealed to How. 

The "Aims and Objects" of the organization con- 
tain a decidedly less radical program than the 
preamble to the I.W.W. constitution. 

1. A national agitation against the unconstitutional laws as 
they affect the migratory worker. 

2. Federal inspection of all construction camps by the United 
States PubHc Health Service. 

3. To work in favor of the abolition of the chain-gang system 
and all prison contract labor. 

4. Free transportation to and from the jobs for all migratory 

5. The abolition of privately owned employment agencies. 

6. A shorter work day. 

The M.W.U. has not been active in Chicago, 
though one of its officers has always been a Chicago 
man. It^has been most active in Ohio and Indiana 
but is even dying there. 




Michael C. Walsh is the general secretary- 
treasurer and the chief promoter of the United 
Brotherhood of American Laborers. Walsh, an old 
organizer for the I.W.W., is not in harmony with the 
"wobblies" at present. Although at one time the 
president of the "Hobo College," he has also with- 
drawn from that institution. 

The aim of the Brotherhood is to unite all migra- 
tory and even non-migratory workers with the slogan, 
"What is the concern of one is the concern of all." 
Its program promises reading-rooms, picture shows, 
lectures, but the chief attraction is an accident and 
life insurance policy which every member takes out. 

Members of the M.W.U. and the I.B.W.A. accuse 
Walsh of drawing up an impractical program for 
economic and legislative reform, and charge that the 
" aims " of the Brotherhood were borrowed from their 
organizations and only slightly modified. 


The Benevolent and Protective Order of Ramblers 
is supposed to be a semi-secret organization of the 
floating fraternity, but its membership is composed 
of a small number of Chicago's "home guards." 
It was organized by John X. Kelly and has no bene- 
fits nor program except that the members agree to 
help one another when in trouble. It holds meetings 
(for members only) now and then, but it does not 
aim to deal with any economic or social problems. 
The "Ramblers" endeavors to add a human touch 
to the migrant's Hfe. It is, in short, a hobo good- 
fellowship club that meets where and when it is con- 



venient to drink the "milk o' human kindness" and 
to sing "Hail! Hail! You Ought to Be a Rambler." 


Dissatisfied with things as they are, the hobo 
experiments now and again with co-operative pro- | 
jects. Most of these are attempts to do on a small 
scale what the dreamers hope to accomplish in the 
future on a larger, a national, or an international 
scale. That co-operative organizations failed is no 
discredit to the leaders nor any conclusive proof 
against the value of co-operative movements as a 
motive in economic life. The failure is to be ex- 
plained at least in part by the egocentricity and 
individualism or the irresponsibiHty of the migra- 
tory workers. 

Of the following five interesting cases of co- 
operative projects among migratory workers, only 
one took place in Chicago. The story of all of these 
attempts has, however, been written by the prime 
mover of them, John X. Kelly. Sooner or later all 
hobo co-operative experiments end the same way. 
They fail because of suspicion and lack of harmony. 

6i. My first attempt to organize a co-operative scheme was 
in 1909 in Redlands, California. I knew a group of men; some 
of them radical and all of them idealists. It occurred to me 
that they were the very types to make a communistic plan work. 
I knew of a tract of land, one hundred and sixty acres, open for 
settlement. Fourteen dollars to file a claim and a little addi- 
tional expense and labor would have put the place in working 

I presented my plan to these men and ten of them approved 
the idea. They had all been soap-boxers and agitators and I 
felt that here at last is a group of men who can make a co- 
operative organization a success. Our scheme was very simple, 



everyone was to bear his share of the burden and to receive his 
share of the profits. No matter what a man did as long as it 
was part of the work of running the farm would be considered 
as important as any other part. The government of the place 
would be absolutely democratic. A manager would be elected 
from the number and he would remain manager for a certain 
term or as long as he gave satisfaction. The land was to be 
divided up as follows: each man was to have a five acre plot as 
his individual property and the other hundred and ten acres of 
ground was to be worked co-operatively. 

We had scarcely got organized when dissensions arose. 
Some were satisfied with the manager but others feared him and 
mistrusted him. Some declared that it was impossible to 
determine how much of one kind of work was equal to another 
kind of work. Some were not satisfied because they felt that 
they were going to be imposed on and they would not join an 
organization in which there was no assurance that they would 
get a square deal. The result of this disputation was the breakup 
of the movement. Each man went his way. 

My second endeavor to promote a hobo co-operative move- 
ment was in 1917 in St. Louis. It was in the winter time and 
there were many idle men in town. I conceived what I thought 
was the most modern and up to date plan ever brought into being 
to promote the interests of the down-and-outs. Knowing that 
the unemployed were being exploited by semi-religious and 
charitable organizations who gave little in return for much work, 
I set about to solve the problem in another way. Dr. James 
Eads How of St. Louis, founder of the International Brotherhood 
Welfare Association, contributed |2oo to be used as follows: 
^100 to be spent for a horse and wagon, I50 for a gasoline engine 
and a saw, while the rest was to be used to buy food until funds 
could be had for the sale of wood. It was a reserve fund only 
to be used in case of emergency. A saloon-keeper gave us the 
use of a yard in East St. Louis free of charge. There was an 
old store in connection with the yard that could also be used. 
The place was in the heart of East St. Louis and accessible to 
any part of the city. The American Car Repairing Company 
gave us all the wood we cared to haul away. Eleven policemen 
sent in orders for wood. They were willing to pay three dollars 
a load for this wood sawed and split into kindling. 



The conditions under which the men entered the program 
were similar to the first venture. They were all to have an equal 
share in the profits. The manager, the man who operated the 
saw; all who worked in and around the wood yard, after expenses 
were deducted, were to share alike. Everything was to be 
democratic, no one was to be an exploiter, and nobody was to be 
exploited. Everyone agreed and after I had remained with the 
project a day or so until it got under way, I left them to work 
out their own problems. 

Within a week a committee of three came to me in St. Louis 
with a story of confusion and a cry of being buncoed by the 
manager. They said that some of the members would not work. 
I sent them back to straighten out matters but conditions 
seemed to get worse in so far as finances were concerned, and 
within six weeks the co-operative wood yard disbanded. 

A short time later I went over to East St. Louis and took the 
horse and wagon and other property of the wood yard to St. 
Louis where I had interested a number of the St. Louis Group of 
the LB.W.A. to take a chance with the communistic scheme. 
Instead of selling the wood by the load this time they were going 
to sell small bundles of kindHng coated with pitch. The men 
did not care this time to use the buzz saw and engine so I bought 
six hand saws and six hatchets. I also bought a half barrel of 
pitch into which the kindling could be dipped. I succeeded in 
raising $32.00 as a jungle fund so that the boys could "get by" 
while working to get a start. 

A start was all that was made as the entire group got intox- 
icated with "joy" with some of the jungle fund. Next morning 
the secretary, who was handling the fund returned half of it with 
the statement that the co-operative wood yard was a fizzle. The 
man who had been elected manager died while on this drunk. 

Here was a group of men that I was satisfied would make a 
success of a communistic scheme if one could be put over, but 
they failed miserably. Some men in both these wood yard 
experiences blamed me because the schemes did not succeed. 

The fourth venture was in Chicago in 1920. I tried to put 
over a co-operative lodging house scheme in the "Slave Market 
District" where thousands of migratory workers congregate 
because of the cheap living conditions. Instead of the Scissors Bill 



class this group was made up of radicals who at some time in their 
unhappy lives had taken part in some co-operative experiment. 
Again I went to Dr. How with my new idea and at my suggestion 
he agreed to pay three months rent in advance to help the move- 
ment along by retaining one of the rooms as an office for the 
I.B.W.A. Five rooms were rented for twenty-five dollars and 
the I.B.W.A. took one of them at half the price or twelve and a 
half dollars a month. Later we rented four additional rooms at 
fifteen dollars making the total rent for nine rooms forty dollars 
of which nearly a third was paid by the I.B.W.A. 

As national secretary of the I.B.W.A. I was supposed to have 
my office there, but I could do most of my work at home so I 
turned the room rented for office over to the club for a sitting 
room. The I.B.W.A. contributed fifty-eight dollars to buy fur- 
niture. Some other furniture was also bought by money con- 
tributed by the men. The place was to be operated on a 
fifty-fifty basis. All the profits and the expenses were to be 
equally shared. Everyone agreed and the organization was ef- 

Now the funny part comes. Quarrels soon arose over trifles, 
and the members began calling each other grafters, and parasites. 
I was even called a parasite though the only part I played was to 
start the project and to encourage it to operate smoothly. 
Before six months had elapsed the co-operative flat was a thing 
of the past. The men sneaked away all of the furniture, that 
of the I.B.W.A. as well as some that belonged to the members 
of the group. They hauled it all away to furnish two small flats. 
They also left an eighteen-dollar gas bill which the amateur 
promoter had to pay. 

The fifth and last experiment is not a case of co-operation but 
it illustrates what might be expected from the hobo. 

During the winter of 191 6 a St. Louis lady. Dr. Innis, con- 
ducted a free dispensary for the "bos" who could not get hospital 
treatment. Dr. How paid the bill for conducting the place. 
Dr. Innis took a great interest in the migratory worker and 
co-operated with us in working out a scheme by which the hobo 
could save some money during the summer to hold him over the 
winter months. She agreed to receive and hold in trust all the 
money that any man would send to her and in the fall when he 
came to town turn it over to him. We got out a lot of letters and 



cards by which this correspondence banking could be carried on 
and about a hundred and fifty men agreed that it was a good 
scheme and that they would take advantage of it. 

The result was amusing. Out of all the men who approved 
the plan only one sent in any money. That one man sent in one 
dollar. Shortly after Dr. Innis got a letter from this man. He 
said he was "broke" and would like to have his dollar back. 

My conclusion is that it is impossible to accomplish anything 
along co-operative lines and in a democratic manner. I know 
the hobo worker fairly well and I tried patiently to put over 
schemes that they have, for the most part, favored, and I worked 
with fair representatives of the group, but they will not co- 
operate. They are suspicious and selfish when it comes to the 
final test of their pet ideas. Co-operative schemes may work but 
I don't think they will be a success along democratic lines. 


Hobo organizations have never been a success 
in this country. It is proverbial that conventions 
of the I.W.W. and the I.B.W.A. have always been 
veritable battle grounds of contending interests. 
The I.B.W.A. has had four conventions during the 
winter of 1921-22 and the summer of 1922 and they 
all failed to accomplish anything because of jealousies 
and bitter feelings. The convention in Cincinnati 
on May Day, 1922, continued in session for three 
days and did not get any farther than to argue about 
the power of the convention to act in the name of 
the I.B.W.A. One whole session was spent in a 
quarrel about the election of a chairman. 

Between the M.W.U, and the I.B.W.A. there is 
considerable antipathy, yet the M.W.U. cannot 
stand alone and will not co-operate with the parent 
organization. The I.W.W. is against both, but even 
in the I.W.W. there is a perpetual clash between the 
migratory workers and the "home guards." Active 



and zealous organizers usually find room for com- 
plaint against the office force. 

The hobo, like other egocentric types, is suspi- 
cious. The I.W.W. at its inception spent days argu- 
ing whether the name of its chief officer should be 
that of president. Some felt that to model the 
organization after others would be a step in imitation 
that might lead to other forms of imitation. Some 
reasoned that most presidents of organizations they 
had known were "parasites'' and their head officer 
might become one also if given the name. The 
hobo's suspicious attitude toward all organizations 
and persons in power is not altogether without 
ground. As a group the migratory workers usually 
get the "short end" of every bargain they drive with 
organized society. Every contractor they work for 
"does" them for something. If he does not charge 
them for tools they lost or destroyed he may charge 
them for rent on a pair of boots or a blanket they may 
have used. They may buy a job from some private 
agency and later lose the job because the agency and 
the contractor have an understanding to sell as many 
jobs as possible. The hobo gets the opinion that 
most officers in most organizations are playing the 
game for what they can get out of it and he concludes 
that it is the natural thing to do. 

The mobility and instabihty of the hobo or tramp, 
which is both cause and consequence of his migratory 
existence, unfits him for organized group life. More- 
over, he is propertyless, and therefore the incentive 
of fixed ownership and fixed residence to remain 
faithful to any institution is gone. While the man 
of property secures himself best by associating with 
his neighbor and remaining in one locality, the hobo 



safeguards himself by moving away from every diffi- 
culty. Then, too, the hobo is without wife and 
child. His womanless existence increases his mobil- 
ity and his instability. 

In pointing out the repeated and seemingly inevi- 
table failures of hobo organizations, the fact must 
not be lost sight of that they are absolutely necessary*-* 
to his social existence. Only in these social and 
political organizations can the migratory worker 
regain his lost status. Only in association with his 
fellows can he again hope and dream of an ideal world 
of co-operation. These organizations will either 
survive repeated failures or take new forms, because 
they satisfy this fundamental need of the social out- 
cast for status. Then, too, in these groups, his 
rebellious attitudes against society are sublimated 
into a radical idealism. Were these organizations 
destroyed, the anti-social grudge of the individual 
would undoubtedly be reflected in criminality. 



TN THE winter of 1921-22 there were twenty-five 
/jL missions in the Hobohemian areas of the city. 
This number tends to expand and to contract with 
the increase or the decrease in number of men out 
of work. The number of missions in the West 
Madison Street section is larger than the number in 
the South State Street and North Clark Street 
regions combined. The influence of the Salvation 
Army, which has outgrown the status of a mission, 
upon similar organizations is profound. The names 
of many of the missions suggest their origin in imita- 
tion of this pioneer body in religious work for the 
"down-and-outs": Christian Army, Samaritan 
Army, Saved Army, Volunteer Rescue Army. The 
names of other missions are as interesting: Bible 
Rescue Mission, Cathedral Shelter, Helping Hand 
Mission, Pacific Garden Mission, Sunshine Gospel 

The uniforms of the "armies" that make up the 
working force of certain of the missions are often so 
nearly alike that it is difficult to tell them apart. A 
short time ago the Salvation Army brought suit 
against the Saved Army to prevent it from using the 
poke bonnets, the blue uniform, the song "The 
War Cry" on the ground that they were so similar 
to those of the Salvation Army that the public 
was confused. It is claimed by representatives of 
the Salvation Army that individuals contribute to 
these other missions and "armies" under the im- 
pression that the contribution is for the Salvation 




TYPES OF missions' 

Aside from the religious work of the Salvation 
Army and the Volunteers of America, three types of 
missions are to be found in Hobohemia: (i) the 
permanently established local mission, (2) the migra- 
tory national mission, and (3) the "wild cat" local 

i) The permanently established local mission 
either owns its building or holds it on a long lease. 
These missions are sponsored by some church or 
by a board of directors composed of business men 
of more or less local prominence. Not infrequently 
these contributors are successful converts. 

These local missions dispense charity in the form 
of food, clothing, and beds for homeless men.^ They 
differ, however, in their methods of relief as well as 
in their policies of relief. One mission may care for 
every man who asks for aid without question as to 
his worthiness, another feels that better service can 
be done by helping only those who are willing to 
work, or those who are incapacitated for manual 
labor. Only the verbose intoxicant is ever ejected 
from the mission — all others may come and go as 
they wish. 

In the permanently established mission is found 
the better type of mission worker who is compen- 
sated by a definite salary rather than paid on a 

' In the section on "Types of Missions" and "Permanent, Periodic, and 
Temporary Converts/' the writer is indebted to material furnished by Mr. L. 
Guy Brown from an unpubHshed study of "Missions in Chicago." 

* One mission of this type on West Madison Street records that during the 
year ending September, 1921, 56,718 homeless men visited the mission. During 
this time 4,016 men knelt at the altar (were converted). Nearly 29,000 meals 
were served to hungry and unemployed men, while 4,145 tickets were issued 
which entitled the bearer to sleep at a flophouse or cheap rooming-house. 



commission basis. The permanent workers consist 
of a superintendent and a secretary assisted by con- 
verts who have made good, usually old men who use 
the mission as a refuge. Still further help comes 
from students of the various religious institutions 
in the city and from the friends of the mission. 

2) The national migratory missions may have 
headquarters in Chicago or some other metropolitan 
center with branches or sub-missions in nearby 
towns and cities. These organizations are generally 
financed by solicitations. Men and women are 
employed to canvass places of business; to "drum" 
on the streets and to make house-to-house calls. 
This practice of drumming on the streets is known 
as "ballyhooing." These solicitors receive, in most 
cases, as much as 50 per cent of the amount they 
collect, which greatly lessens the sum to be used for 
the homeless men after the rent for the building, 
the salaries of the men in charge, and other expenses 
have been deducted from the remaining 50 per cent. 

The shifting of these missions is proverbial. If 
they are not moving from city to city they are moving 
from one street to another, or from one location to 
another on the same street. The workers are as 
transient as the institutions themselves: migrating 
back and forth between cities, and affiliating them- 
selves first with one mission and then with another. 
Often they are rural folk who, through urban mission 
work, find expression for the wishes of adventure and 
recognition. The fascination of the city has an 
attraction for the migratory mission worker as for 
the migratory laborer. They prefer this life, even 
under adverse conditions, to any other field of service. 
Others are veterans, who have been in mission work 



for years with four or five different organizations in 
as many cities. 

3) The "wild cat" local mission, more or less 
ephemeral in nature, springs up during some crisis 
as an unemployment situation. Using the crisis 
as an excuse for soliciting funds to aid the unem- 
ployed, they operate for awhile, and when conditions 
have been ameliorated, they go out of existence. 
The workers, enthralled by a few months in the serv- 
ice, then affiliate with another mission. 


The following narrative by an observer in the 
Bible Rescue Mission one Sunday evening early in 
April, 1922, describes the technique of conversion. 

62. More than a hundred men were in the audience. The 
night was cold and they were glad to be inside. Then, too, 
there were rolls and coffee to be served after the meeting. Near 
the close of the service the evangelist stept down from the stand 
and asked if anyone in the audience wished to be prayed for. 
Surely out of an audience of so many men, all sinners, someone 
was concerned about his soul. All a man would have to do was 
to raise his hand. That was easy; just beheve with all your 
heart, raise your hand for prayer. It was worth taking a chance 
on anyway. Three hands went up. 

"That's fine! Three men have asked to be remembered 
before the Lord. Is there anyone else ? Just one more, let's 
make it four. Won't someone else raise his hand. Yes, there's 
another hand. God bless you, brother. Now, will the four 
men who raised their hands please stand ? " 

This was more than they had bargained for, but they stood. 
All eyes were on the four, all homeless men with the character- 
istic beaten look. They were self-conscious and uncomfortable. 
One of the men, somewhat older than the others, seemed to be 
stirred by emotion. 

"Now," continued the evangelist, "will the four brothers 
who just stood up kindly come forward and kneel with us in 



prayer ?" There was a moment of hesitation. Finally, the old 
man led the way. One of the others followed in a halting fashion. 
A worker came down from the stand and escorted to the front the 
younger of the remaining two. The fourth man sat down. 
Another worker sat down beside him and pleaded with him for 
some time. The man seemed to resent it at first, but at length 
he yielded and was led into the circle. He had a sheepish look 
as he slumped to his knees between two of the other converts. 

Several of the workers began to labor with members of the 
audience while the little circle kneeled on the floor and prayed. 
No other converts were made so the meeting came to an end with 
handshakes and congratulations for the new converts. Then 
the lunch was passed and the tension relaxed. 

Once outside I asked a man who had been inside what he 
thought of the meeting. He laughed, "Oh, it's just like all of 
them. I wanted to laugh out loud when I saw that old duck 
get saved. He gets saved every winter. This winter he got 
saved twice. He always manages to get saved in missions where 
there is something to eat." 

Women play a leading role in mission work. The 
homeless man, who remembers his home and mother, 
listens with respect to the prayers and appeals of 
the women workers, and is stirred by the singing of 
young girls. A religious plea by a woman of strong 
personality will sometimes overwhelm a despondent 
and homesick man. 

63. Probably the most interesting event of our investigation 
was a Salvation Army revival meeting, held in a little auditorium 
behind the smoking room. Each Sunday night at about 8:00, 
these services are held. Eight or nine girls, one the leader, and 
one the pianist, make up the cast and chorus. When they are 
ready the invitation is extended to those in the smoking room and 
anywhere from six to thirty are likely to go into the "church." 

The leader is a very versatile lady. She can utter a fervent 
prayer, sing louder than all the rest of the girls together, play a 
tambourine at the same time, and make a stirring appeal to 
the audience that they "come forward to Jesus and be saved." 
The girls join in the chorus, clapping as they sing. They have 



all been saved, and testify as to the truth of the leader's words. 
"Isn't that true, girls ?" and they all nod their heads in perfect 

The old songs are sung, songs with simple tune and words as 
"He's the Lily of the Valley." Anyone hearing these songs once 
can join in, and all are asked to do so, but few respond. Yet 
it is inspiring to see some forlorn looking bum concentrate on the 
little book and sing forth earnestly, as some of them do. Very 
few, however, wish to be saved. They are willing to attend the 
services, and maybe to sing, but they will not volunteer to join 
the army of God, and when personal solicitation is undertaken, 
few remain in the room. 

During warm weather the missions hold street 
meetings. Headed by the mission band, the com- 
pany marches outside to get the crowd. A few 
songs are sung, several testimonials are given, and 
the curbstone audience is invited to the hall. 

Few mission workers are able to gather and 
hold a crowd on the street. It is more difficult 
to preach on account of the noise of passing street 
cars and automobiles. The crowd outside is less 
stable and not so considerate as the indoor audience. 
Often the meetings are disturbed by drunken men 
or by competing mission groups on the same street. 
A mission band may not be able to gather any crowd, 
even though hundreds of men are passing or loafing 
on the streets. Sometimes their audiences will be 
stolen by soap-boxers who start near by with the 
"economic arguments.'' 


Every mission has its permanent, periodic, and J 
temporary converts; its ''alumni." Some of these 
linger about the mission doing odd jobs, others go 



to work or into business, only returning occasionally 
to bear testimony. Many of these have prospered 
both spiritually and materially, and assist the mission 
in its work. Certain missions celebrate the " spiritual 
birthdays of these converts. A bouquet of flowers is 
placed on the pulpit and a special program is arranged 
in honor of the occasion. The anniversary of the 
conversion of a permanent convert is a time of 
rejoicing. The "twice-born man" bears his testi- 
mony to the saving power of the gospel that snatches 
*'a brand from the burning," and asks the prayers of 
the saints that he may continue "faithful until the 
end." Each of the "saved" who are present wears 
a flower in the lapel of his coat and takes advantage of 
the occasion to add his testimony. 

The following typical cases of converts were 
secured through hearing the testimony of men in the 
missions and by later interviews with each of the 
converts. The information given was also verified 
by mission workers who knew the men. 

64. H. M., in his own words, was once "one of the worst 
jail birds and boozers" in this part of the country. For years, 
he declares, he was never sober. His arrival home usually- 
meant the beating of his wife. At the end of every month he 
was in debt to the saloon keeper. He gravitated from one house 
to another unable to pay his rent, until his family was living in 
an old delapidated shack. His religious transformation changed 
the whole situation. He is now in business for himself. He is 
considered one of the most competent and rehable in his field. 
He and his wife work at the mission and are among its largest 
financial contributors. 

65. About twenty years ago T. S., a typical "down-and-out," 
wandered into a Chicago mission. He had deserted his family 
in an eastern state and started on the bum. Exposure and 
"booze" had almost completely enervated him. He was dirty, 
unshaved, and in rags. His visit to the mission led to his 



conversion and subsequently to reconciliation with his wife and 
three children. He is now superintendent of a business concern 
in the city. 

66. P. W., a man of foreign birth and a graduate from one 
of the leading universities of his native country, became addicted 
to drink, deserted his wife, and leaving her in dire need came to 
this country. He became so low a bum that he was taking his 
food from garbage cans in the alleys of Chicago, spending every 
cent he could get for "booze." He was so debilitated from 
alcohol, exposure, and lack of nourishment when he came to the 
mission that he was hardly able to walk. He was converted and 
restored to health. His wife later joined him. He became 
nationally known as a worker in missions. 

67. Some years ago a young lad left his home in Germany 
and came to the United States. His associates here were persons 
who spent their leisure time in dissipation. One morning he 
awoke after a drunken night and decided to go down on West 
Madison Street with the bums where he thought he belonged. 
He despaired of life. He wandered into one of the missions to 
get warm and was converted. Although he had a meager educa- 
tion he is now studying in one of the religious institutions of 
the city with the expressed purpose of doing religious work. 

68. P. D. came into the mission drunk one night and was 
converted. Several times previous to this he had been thrown 
out for disturbing the meeting. According to his own statement 
he entered the mission one time and was "saved and stayed 
saved." He is now general labor foreman for a large construction 

Of course there are temporary converts who be- 
come victims of their old environment. For awhile 
they go straight, but eventually they yield to "the 
world, the flesh, and the devil/' Some periodic con- 
verts kneel before the altar every year and each time 
go out with renewed determination to avoid sin, but 
they often succumb the first time they are subjected 
to temptation. The mission workers expect this 
periodicity of conversion with some of these men just 
as they expect the winter. 



"Backsliders" are usually well meaning men but 
weak. Any convert who remains on the "stem" 
is likely to become a "backslider." The emotional 
nature of many of these men may induce a mood of 
sincere repentance, but it is difficult to keep the 
resolution to reform. 

69. L. S. is a youth of the city. He is twenty-three. His 
parents are strict German Lutherans and he spent several years 
in a Lutheran parochial school. He left home over a month 
ago (April, 1922) because of some trouble he had with his folks. 

Shortly after he entered the Mission on Madison 

Street where he "got religion" but in a week he "back sHd." 
He was melted into consenting and was rushed to the front and 
"saved" before he knew what had happened. After the men 
on the outside laughed at him he "weakened." Now he feels 
that there is "nothing to religion anyway," though he admits 
that the mission worker at one time kept him out of jail. 


During the winter of 1921-22, twelve of the 
missions in Chicago, maintained "bread lines," that 
is, dispensed food, as coffee and doughnuts, or a 
bowl of soup and vegetables. The term "bread 
line," used figuratively for "free lunch," originally 
described the long lines of men during years of want 
and unemployment waiting outside relief stations 
for bread and soup. 

Missions without "bread lines" claim that the 
food is given as a bait to get conversions. They 
hold that "meal ticket" converts lose their religion 
as soon as they become economically self-sustaining. 
The unregenerate homeless man looks down upon 
the regular attendants at the mission, and accuses 
them of getting converted for "pie card" reasons. 
He calls them "mission stiffs," a term as uncompli- 
mentary as for an Indian to be called a "squaw man." 


Jiy permission of the Il.-/fu,i- Ihtu.i I/, 





The mission is not the only institution to which 
the homeless man turns. Social-service agencies, 
public and private, many of which are organized 
primarily for family rehabilitation, have given assist- 
ance to the homeless man. 

The United Charities, although engaged chiefly in 
work with families, has a homeless-men division. 
During the year ending September 30, 1922, 1,026 
non-family men received assistance. Of these, 629 
were given material or personal service, and 397 were 
referred to other organizations. The Jewish Social 
Service Bureau also maintains a homeless men's 
department which, in the year 1921, gave personal 
and material aid to 1,333 men. During 1922, the 
number of men helped fell to less than half this 
number, largely as a result of the improved industrial 
situation. The Bureau works in close association 
with two Jewish sheltering-homes, which together 
house about 70 men. Homeless men who apply for 
assistance are cared for here until their cases are care- 
fully investigated. The Central Bureau of (Cath- 
olic) Charities, in conjunction with the Mission of 
the Holy Cross, provides shelter and food for desti- 
tute men, and aids them to become self-supporting. 

The Chicago Urban League, organized to promote 
co-ordination and co-operation among existing 
agencies for the welfare of Negroes, maintains an 
employment bureau for men out of work. During 
the winters of 1920-21 and 1921-22, when thousands 
of men' were without house accommodations, the 
League took the lead in co-operating with churches 

^ The officials of the League estimate that there were 7,000 homeless men 
among the Negroes in the winter of 1921-22. 



and other organizations to secure temporary housing 

The hotels for homeless men maintained by the 
Salvation Army and by the Christian Industrial 
League have already been described/ In addition, 
both organizations maintain industrial homes where 
men are given temporary work and are helped to 
become self-supporting. 

The American Legion has been active in behalf of 
unemployed ex-service men, many of whom are also 
homeless men. Its work has consisted chiefly in 
getting jobs for the unemployed, and in this it has 
had the hearty co-operation of the newspapers. The 
Legion Hall was turned over to homeless veterans 
for sleeping quarters during the winter of 1921-22. 

The Chicago Municipal Lodging House was first 
opened on December 21, 1901. It provided free 
temporary shelter and food for destitute, homeless 
men. At first it was operated under the Depart- 
ment of Police, but was transferred on January i, 
1908, to the Department of Health, and later, on 
April 17, 1 91 7, transferred to the Department of 
Public Welfare. In its early history, the Municipal 
Lodging House was fortunate in having as its super- 
intendent men like Raymond Robins, James Mullen- 
bach, and Charles B. Ball, who set high standards for 
its administration.^ The Municipal Lodging House 
met the severe test of the unemployment years of 
1908 and 1914 by showing how its organization could 
expand to meet extraordinary situations. For ex- 
ample, while only 23,642 lodgings were given in 1907, 

^ See pp. 27-28. 

2 See Raymond Robins, "What Constitutes a Model Municipal Lodging 
House," Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction (1904), 



the number rose to 105,564 in 1908; and the 78,392 
lodgings given in 1913 rose to 452,361 in 1914. The 
Municipal Lodging House closed in 191 8-1 9 because 
of lack of applicants during wartime prosperity, but 
it did not reopen during the hard winters of 1920-21 
and 1921-22. Many destitute men, who would 
otherwise have been inmates of the Municipal Lodg- 
ing House with the medical attention, sanitary sleep- 
ing quarters, and other assistance for rehabilitation 
which it offered, became instead "regular feeders" 
at the "bread lines'' and permanent patrons of 
Hogan's "flop." There seems to be no doubt that 
the absence of municipal provision made for an 
increase of promiscuous begging and injudicious 

Many other institutions and agencies regularly or 
sporadically extend assistance to the homeless man. 
Yet, in perhaps no other field of social work is there 
more overlapping and duplication of effort, or so 
low standards of service. For example, the missions 
and some of the churches, working independently of 
one another, boast that they feed and clothe the 
needy, but they make little or no effort to distinguish 
between those who do and those who do not deserve 
assistance. Consequently, the missions lay them- 
selves open to exploitation by the homeless man. A 
constructive program for rehabilitation demands the 
co-ordination of the efforts of all agencies now 
engaged in serving his needs. 


The missions, and for that matter, the welfare 
agencies are unpopular with the habitues of Hobo- 
hemia. The hobo, in his songs and in conversation. 



shows unmistakably his aversion to all efforts to 
remake his character or to reshape his destiny. This 
feeling of antipathy is naturally strongest with the 
adherents of the l.W.W. who come in competition 
and conflict with the mission worker. 

With full recognition of the cynical reaction of 
the average hobo to the mission, it cannot be denied 
that thousands of homeless men are converted every 
winter, and that a certain proportion of these, how 
large no one knows, lead permanently changed lives. 
The mission touches the inner life of these men in a 
way that no social agency or organization has ever 
done, or perhaps can do. 

Even the homeless man has aspirations above the 
satisfaction of his physical wants; he desires to live 
in a larger, more complete sense. The I.W.W., with 
its radical program of changing "things as they are," 
appeals to the restless and rebellious spirit of youth. 
But the broken man, or the old man who has given 
up hope, finds comfort and peace in adapting himself 
to "things as they are." Religion to him is just this 
change of attitude, "making oneself right with God." 
While the young man is confident that he can right 
what is wrong in this world, the old man looks to the 
next world to compensate for the inequalities and 
injustice of present existence. 




THIS study has pictured the life and the problems 
of the group of homeless migratory and casual 
workers in Chicago. It now remains to sum up 
the findings of the investigation and to outline the 
recommendations which seem to flow from the facts.' 


1. The homeless casual and migratory workers, while found in 
all parts of the city, are segregated in great numbers in four 
distinct areas: West Madison Street, Lower South State 
Street (near the Loop), North Clark Street, and Upper 
State Street (the Negro section). 

2. The number of homeless men in these areas fluctuates greatly 
with the seasons and with conditions of employment. 

3. The concentration of casual and migratory workers in this 
city is the natural result of two factors: (a) the develop- 
ment of Chicago as a great industrial community with diver- 
sified enterprises requiring a variety of unskilled as well as 
skilled laborers, and (^) the position of Chicago as a center 
of transportation, of commerce and of employment for the 
states of the Mississippi Valley. 

4. The homeless men in Chicago fall into five groups: (a) the 
seasonal laborer, (l^) the migratory, casual laborer, the hobo, 
(c) the migratory non-worker, the tramp, (d) the non- 
migratory casual laborer, the so-called "home guard," (<?) 
the bum. Groups ^, and e constitute what are known 
in economic writings as "The Residuum of Industry." In 
addition to these groups of the homeless casual and migra- 
tory workers are the groups of seasonal laborers and 
the men out of work, which expand and contract with 
the periods of economic depression and of industrial 

' The findings and recommendations of this study were prepared by the 
Committee on Homeless Men of the Chicago Council of Social Agencies and its 
report accepted by the Council. 




5. The causes which reduce a man to the status of a homeless 
migratory and casual worker may be classified under five 
main heads as follows: 

d) Unemployment and Seasonal Work: these maladjustments 
of modern industry which disorganize the routine of life 
of the individual and destroy regular habits of work. 

b) Industrial Inadequacy: "the misfits of industry," whether 
due to physical handicaps, mental deficiency, occupa- 
tional disease, or lack of vocational training. 

c) Dejects of Personality: as feeble-mindedness, constitu- 
tional inferiority, or egocentricity, which lead to the 
conflict of the person with constituted authority in 
industry, society, and government. 

d) Crises in the Life of the Person: as family conflicts, mis- 
conduct, and crime, which exile a man from home and 
community and detach him from normal social ties. 

e) Racial or National Discrimination: where race, national- 
ity, or social class of the person enters as a factor of 
adverse selection for employment. 

/) Wanderlust: the desire for new experience, excitement, 
and adventure, which moves the boy "to see the world." 

6. To satisfy the wants and wishes of the thousands of home- 
less migratory and casual workers at the lowest possible 
cost, specialized institutions and enterprises have been 
established in Chicago. These include: 

a) Employment agencies. 

b) Restaurants and lodging-houses. 

c) Barber colleges. 

d) Outfitting stores and clothing exchanges. 

e) Pawnshops. 

/) Movies and burlesques. 

g) Missions. 

h) Local political and social organizations, as "The Indus- 
trial Workers of the World" and the "Hobo College." 

i) Secular street meetings and radical bookstores. 

7. Chicago as the great clearing house of employment for the 
states of the Mississippi Valley naturally and inevitably 
becomes the temporary home of men out of work for the 
entire region. The following appear to be the facts in 
regard to the workers and the conditions of employment: 



a) Fluctuations of industry, such as seasonal changes, and 
of unemployment, force large numbers of men into the 
group of homeless migratory and casual workers. 

^) At the same time, the homeless migratory and casual 
worker develops irregular habits of work and a life-policy 
of living from hand to mouth." 

c) Employment records indicate that the lower grade of 
casual workers prefer work by the day, or employment 
by the week or two, to "permanent" positions of three 
months or longer. 

d) The Illinois Free Employment offices, efficiently admin- 
istered with simple but well-kept records and with 
courteous treatment of applicants, placed 50,482 persons 
in the year ending September 30, 1922, mainly in positions 
in and near Chicago. 

e) The private employment agencies dealing with the home- 
less man, about fifty in number, which are, in general, 
poorly equipped, with the minimum of record keeping 
required by law and with inconsiderate treatment of 
applicants, place about 200,000 men a year in positions, 
for the most part, outside of Chicago. 

/) The law relating to private employment agencies as 
approved June 15, 1909, in force July 1,1909, and as 
amended and approved June 7, 191 1, in force July i, 191 1, 
appears not to be enforced in two points: 

i) the requirement that sections three (3), four (4), and 
five (5) of the law be posted in a conspicuous place in 
each room of the agency; and 

ii) the return to the applicant of three-fifths of the regis- 
tration and other fees upon failure of applicant to 
accept position or upon his discharge for cause. 

8. The health and hygiene of the homeless migratory and casual 
worker is of vital concern not only for his economic efficiency 
but also because of the relation of his high mobihty to the 
spread of communicable diseases. 

9. The homeless migratory and casual workers constitute a 
womanless group. The results of this sex isolation are: 

a) No opportunity for the expression and sublimation of the 
sex impulse in the normal life of the family. 



U) In a few cases, the substitution for marriage of free unions 
more or less casual, usually terminated at the will of the 
man without due regard to the claims of the woman. 

c) The dependence of the greatest number of homeless men 
upon the professional prostitute of the lowest grade and 
the cheapest sort. 

d) The prevalence of sex perversions, as masturbation and 

10. The attraction for the boy of excitement and adventure 
renders him peculiarly susceptible to the "call of the road." 
d) Hundreds of Chicago boys, mainly but not entirely of 

wage-earning families, every spring "beat their way" to 
the harvest fields, impelled by wanderlust, and the oppor- 
tunity for work away from home. 
h) Of these a certain proportion acquire the migratory habit 
and may pass through successive stages from a high-grade 
seasonal worker to the lowest type of bum. 

c) The boy on the road and in the city is constantly under 
the pressure of homosexual exploitation by confirmed 
perverts in the migratory group. 

ct) Certain areas of the city frequented by boys have been 
found to be resorts and rendezvous for homosexual 

11. While the majority of the homeless migratory workers are 
American citizens of native stock: 

d) They are in large numbers for practical purposes dis- 
franchised because they seldom remain in any community 
long enough to secure legal residence. 

b) They constitute a shifting and shiftless group without 
property and family, and with no effective participation 
in the civic Hfe of the community. 

c) According to statements from police authorities they 
contribute but slightly to the volume of serious crime. 

d) Both on the road and in the city, they are at all times 
subject to arbitrary handhng and arrest by private and 
public police and to summary trial and sentence by the 

e) The attitude of Chicago, like that of other communities 
toward the homeless man, has been a policy of defense 
intrusted to the police department for execution. 



12. Social service to the homeless migratory and casual worker 
has for the most part been remedial rather than preventive; 
unorganized and haphazard rather than organized and 

a) Professional beggars and fakers exploit public sympathy 
and credulity for individual gain to the disadvantage of 
the men who need and deserve assistance. 

b) The missions and certain churches feed, clothe, and pro- 
vide shelter for several thousand men during the winter 

c) The Dawes Hotel, the Christian Industrial League, and 
the Salvation Army hotels provide lodging at a low charge. 

d) The Salvation Army maintains the Industrial Home with 
workshops which accommodate a limited number of men. 

e) The United Charities and the Central Charity (Catholic) 
Bureau, although concerned mainly with family relief, 
give certain forms of assistance to the homeless man. 

/) The Jewish Social Service Bureau maintains a depart- 
ment for homeless men, which acts as a referring agency 
to two shelter houses. 

g) The American Legion and other patriotic organizations 
have provided assistance of various types to the ex- 
service man out of employment. 

h) The Municipal Lodging House, which closed its doors in 
191 8, has not been reopened, despite the evident need of 
the winters of 1920-21 and 1921-22. 

/) The Cook County agent provides free transportation to 
non-residents to place of legal residence and refers 
residents to Oak Forest Infirmary. 

j) The county and city hospitals and dispensaries provide 
free medical care. 

k) Unco-ordinated effort of the organizations for service to 
the homeless man has resulted in duplication of activi- 
ties, a low standard of work, and the neglect of a construc- 
tive program of rehabilitation. 


The findings of this study indicate conclusively: 
{a) that any fundamental solution of the problem is 
national and not local, and {b) that the problem of 



the homeless migratory worker is but an aspect of 
the larger problems of industry, such as unemploy- 
ment, seasonal work, and labor turnover. 

National Program 

The committee approves, as a national program for the con- 
trol of the problem, the recommendations suggested by the studies 
on unemployment and migratory laborers contained in the Final 
Report of the Commission on Industrial Relations (pp. 1 14-15; 

1. The enactment of appropriate legislation modifying the title 
of the Bureau of Immigration to "Bureau of Immigration 
and Employment" and providing the statutory authority 
and appropriations necessary for — 

a) The establishment of a national employment system,^ 
under the Department of Labor, with a staff of well-paid 
and specially quahfied officials in the main offices at 

b) The licensing, regulation, and supervision of all private 
employment agencies doing an interstate business. 

c) The investigation and preparation of plans for the regular- 
ization of employment, the decasualization of labor, the 
utilization of public work to fill in periods of business 
depression, insurance against unemployment in such 
trades and industries as may seem desirable, and other 
measures designed to promote regularity and steadiness 
of employment. 

2. The immediate creation of a special board made up of the 
properly qualified officials from the Departments of Agri- 
culture, Commerce, Interior, and Labor, and from the Board 
of Army Engineers to prepare plans for performing the largest 
possible amount of public work during the winter, and to 
devise a program for the future for performing, during periods 
of depression, such public work as road building, construction 
of public building, reforestation, irrigation, and drainage of 
swamps. The success attending the construction of the 

^The United States Employment Service established in 1918 requires 
adequate appropriations for its efficient functioning. 



Panama Canal indicates the enormous national construction 
works which might be done to the advantage of the entire 
nation during such periods of depression. Similar boards 
or commissions should be estabHshed in the various states 
and municipalities. 

3. The Interstate Commerce Commission should be directed by 
Congress to investigate and report the most feasible plan of 
providing for the transportation of workers at the lowest 
reasonable rates, and, at the same time, measures necessary 
to eliminate the stealing of rides on railways. If special 
transportation rates for workers are provided, tickets may be 
issued only to those who secure employment through public 
employment agencies. 

4. The estabHshment by states, municipalities, and, through the 
Department of Labor, the federal government, of sanitary 
workingmen's hotels in which the prices for accommodations 
shall be adjusted to the cost of operation. If such working- 
men's hotels are established, the Post Office Department 
should estabhsh branch postal savings banks in connection 

5. The establishment by the municipal, state, and federal govern- 
ments of colonies or farms for "down and outs" in order to 
rehabilitate them by means of proper food, regular habits of 
living and regular work that will train them for lives of use- 
fulness. Such colonies should provide for hospital treatment 
of cases which require it. 

The Chicago Plan for the Homeless Man 

For the local situation and for such action as lies in the hands 
(a) of the citizens of this community, (l>) of the city of Chicago, 
(c) of Cook County, and (d) of the state of Illinois, this com- 
mittee recommends: 

I. As A Program for Immediate Action — 

I. T/ie establishment of a Municipal Clearing House for 
Non-Family Men. 

a) Purpose: 

i) To provide facilities for the registration, exami- 
nation, classification, and treatment of homeless 



migratory and casual workers in order, on the 
basis of individual case-study, 
ii) To secure by reference to the appropriate agency 
emergency relief, physical and mental rehabilita- 
tion, industrial training, commitment to institu- 
tional care, return to legal residence, and 
satisfactory employment. 

b) Organization: The Clearing House will maintain the 
following departments: 

i) Information Bureau: to provide information in 
regard to employment, public institutions, social 
agencies, indorsed hotels, and lodging-houses, etc. 

ii) Registration: by card, giving name, age, occupa- 
tion, physical condition, reference, residence, 
nearest relative or friend, number of lodgings, 
disposition, and all other information. 

iii) Vocational Clinic: to provide medical, psychiat- 
ric, psychological, and social examination as a 
basis of treatment. 

iv) Records Office: to record findings of examination, 
to clear with other agencies, local and national, 
and to enter recommendations and results of 

v) Social Service Bureau: to provide for both immedi- 
ate and after-care service for the men under the 
supervision of the Clearing House. 

c) Personnel: to consist of director, clerical force, inter- 
viewers, social workers, and experts, as physician, 
psychiatrist, psychologist, and sociologist. 

d) Intake of Clearing House: registrants to be referred to 
the Clearing House by: 

i) Citizens^ to whom homeless men have applied for 

ii) Missions^ where food or lodging have been 
received by homeless men. 

iii) Charities. 

iv) Travelers' Aid Society. 

v) Local organizations. 



vi) Police Department: closing of police stations to 
lodgers and provision for supply of such appli- 
cants with tickets of admission to the Clearing 
House; direction by police to the Clearing House 
of persons found for the first time begging. 

vii) Courts^ police stations^ House of Correction^ and 
county jail: provision to every homeless man or 
boy upon discharge with ticket of admission to 
Clearing House guaranteeing three days' liberty 
with food, lodging, and an opportunity for honest 

e) Classification: As a result of examination in the 
Vocational Clinic the men will be divided for treat- 
ment into three groups: (i) boys and youths, (2) 
employable men, and (3) unemployable men. The 
unemployable will be further divided into: (i) the 
physically handicapped, (ii) the mentally defective, 
(iii) alcohoHcs and drug addicts, (iv) the habitually 
idle, (v) the untrained, and (vi) the aged. 

/) Treatment: Upon the basis of the preceding examina- 
tion and classification, the men will be given the 
following services: 

i) Those in need of emergency relief, temporary 
lodging, meals and bath, by the agencies in the 
field and by the Municipal Lodging House 
(when reopened). 

ii) Those in need of clean clothes, free laundry 
work at the Municipal Laundry (to be estab- 

iii) Those who are proper charges of other communi- 
ties and who may be better cared for there, 
transportation from relatives or from Cook 
County agent. 

iv) Those in need of medical service, treatment at 
the Cook County Hospital, Municipal Tubercu- 
losis Sanitarium, or dispensaries, and observa- 
tion at the Psychopathic Hospital. 

v) For the unemployable physically disabled, edu- 
cation as provided in the Chicago plan for the 



physically handicapped (under consideration by 
the state in co-operation with private agencies). 

vi) For the unemployable but physically able- 
bodied, individual arrangements for industrial 

vii) For the aged and permanently physically dis- 
abled, placement in the Oak Forest Home. 

viii) For the employable, references with vocational 
diagnosis and recommendation to the Illinois 
Free Employment offices and other employment 

ix) For persons under the supervision of the Munici- 
pal Clearing House, when desirable, individual 
case work and after-care. 

x) For incorrigible vagrants and beggars for whom 
no constructive treatment is provided in the 
program for immediate action (see constructive 
treatment in "Program for Future Action") 
commitment to the House of Correction. 

g) Administration: The Clearing House to be admin- 
istered by the city of Chicago under the City Depart- 
ment of Public Welfare; the director of the Clearing 
House to be also superintendent of the Lodging House 
and of the Municipal Laundry and the Municipal 
Bath House, a physician on full time to be assigned 
by the City Department of Public Health, a psychi- 
atrist and psychologist by the state criminologist of 
the State Department of Public Welfare. 

h) Advisory Committee: Under the auspices of the 
Chicago Council of Social Agencies, an advisory com- 
mittee to the director of the Clearing House be 
organized to be composed of public and private 
agencies and civic, philanthropic, commercial, indus- 
trial, and labor organizations, co-operating with the 
Clearing House. 

/) Financing: An appeal to be made at once to the 
city council for funds to equip and maintain the 
Municipal Clearing House, Municipal Lodging House, 
Laundry and Bath House, to provide for the following 



Tentative Annual Budget for Caring Adequately for 
Homeless Transient Men in Chicago 

Clearing House 

Rent of headquarters, including light and heat 

Heat and light in free quarters 


Office supplies, stationery, printing, etc 




Six interviewers and field workers 

Two interviewers and field workers 

Two stenographers 

One stenographer 

Physician (part time) 

Psychiatrist (part time) 

Director of vocational guidance 




f, 2,500.00 

I , 000 . 00 


6 , 000 . 00 

2 , 400 . 00 

I ,800.00 
I , 800 . 00 
I , 800 . 00 

$33 >3°o. 00 

* The maximum budget represents expenditures in the event headquarters cannot 
be secured free of rent, services of physician and psychiatrist cannot be secured from 
city and Institute for Juvenile Research, and at a time when a full staff will be necessary. 

2. The reopening of the Municipal Lodging House under the 
following conditions (adapted from "Program for Model 
Municipal Lodging House," by Raymond Robins): 

a) Administration: under the City Department of Pub- 
lic Health in close affiliation with the Clearing House 
for Homeless Men. 

b) Purpose: to provide free, under humane and sanitary 
conditions, food, lodging, and bath, with definite 
direction for such permanent refief as is needed for 
any man or boy stranded in Chicago. 

c) Registration and preliminary physical examination: 
made in Clearing House a condition to admission. 

d) Standard of service: 

i) Sanitary building. 

ii) Wholesome food. 

iii) Dormitories quiet, beds comfortable and clean„ 

iv) First-aid treatment: vaccination, bandages and 
simple medicaments furnished free. 



v) Isolation ward for men suffering from inebriety, 
insanity, venereal diseases, etc. 

vi) Fumigation of lodgers' clothing, including hat 
and shoes, every night. 

vii) Nightly shower bath required. 

3. The establishment of a Municipal Laundry and a Munici- 
pal Bath House by the city of Chicago: to be operated in 
close affiliation with the Municipal Clearing House. 

4. Utilization of existing facilities for industrial training: 
Co-operation with existing educational institutions for 
the vocational training of boys and youths and of the 
physically handicapped, mentally defective, and industri- 
ally inadequate who are unemployable but willing to 
work. (See "Program for Future Action.") 

5. Employment agencies: 

a) The extension of the service of the Illinois Free 
Employment office. 

b) The enforcement of the law relating to private em- 
ployment agencies: the requirement that sections 
three (3), four (4), and five (5), of the law be posted 
in a conspicuous place in each room of the agency; 
and the return to the applicant of three-fifths of the 
registration and other fees upon the failure of appli- 
cant to accept position or upon his discharge for cause. 

c) The further study of private employment agencies 
and of labor camps in order to provide the homeless 
man with adequate protection against exploitation. 

6. Public health and housing: 

a) The further building of sanitary workingmen's hotels 
with low charge for accommodations. 

b) The maintenance and raising of standards of cheap 
hotels in Chicago through rigid inspection and tighten- 
ing of requirements. 

c) Medical examination, inspection, and supervision of 
men in flops, together with vaccination and hospital- 
ization of needy cases. 

7. Vagrancy Court: the reorganization of the Vagrancy 
Court for the hearing of cases of incorrigible vagrants 
and beggars on the basis of the investigations of the 
Clearing House. 



8. Protection of the boy: 

a) Prevention of aimless wandering through the provi- 
sion of wholesome and stimulating recreation, through 
the extension of all activities for boys, and through the 
further development of vocational education and 
supervision. The Vocational Guidance Bureau of 
the Board of Education should be removed to an 
area of the city free from unwholesome contacts. 

b) An educational campaign organized through the Mid- 
West Boy's Club Federation should be carried on in 
all the boys' organizations in Chicago showing the 
danger of "flipping" trains and playing in railroad 
yards. The National Safety Council has a great deal 
of material which could be used in such a campaign. 

c) Co-operation with such organization as the Brother- 
hood of Railway Trainmen, the special police organ- 
izations of the railroads, the Lake Carriers Associa- 
tion, and automobile clubs, in a program to prevent 
boys wandering away from home. Pamphlets should 
be prepared for distribution, asking for co-operation 
and enforcement of working certificate regulations 
in this and other states, child labor laws, juvenile 
court laws, etc. 

d) The enhstment officers of the army, navy, and marine 
should demand the presentation of a birth certificate 
in all cases in which they doubt the age of the 

e) The co-operation of the managers of the hotels and 
lodging-houses in an effort to keep boys under seven- 
teen out of the hotels in the Hobohemian areas, or at 
least to use their influence in preventing boys and 
men from rooming together. 

/) Because most of the contacts the boy has with tramps 
are unwholesome, the police should not permit boys 
to loiter or play in the areas most frequented by the 
tramp population; namely. West Madison Street, 
South State Street, North Clark Street, and adjacent 
territory. Parents ought to be made aware of the 
nature of the contacts the boy has with the tramp in 
these areas and in the parks. 



g) The assignment of special plain-clothes policemen 
experienced in dealing with vagrants to the parks and 
other places in which tramps congregate. They 
should be instructed to pick up and hold in the Deten- 
tion Home any boy under seventeen years found in 
company with a tramp. 
k) More strenuous effort should be made to occupy the 
leisure time of boys who frequent the districts in 
which the tramps congregate. It is the boy with 
leisure time who is the most susceptible to the unwhole- 
some contacts. Supervised recreation should be 
carried on to an extent that boys who play in Hobo- 
hemian areas might be attracted to other sections. 
When school is not in session a more extensive pro- 
gram of summer camps might help. 
/) Since the Juvenile Court of Cook County is equipped 
to investigate the cases of vagrant boys under seven- 
teen in Chicago, and return them to their homes, all 
vagrant boys apprehended by anyone in the daytime 
should be reported to the chief probation officer, 
Juvenile Court. Vagrant boys over seventeen should 
be directed to the Clearing House. 
j) After five o'clock vagrant boys under seventeen should 
be turned over to the police who will take them to 
the Detention Home, from which home they will be 
taken to the office of the chief probation officer the 
first thing in the morning. 
k) Whenever a boy under seventeen is taken in custody 
by the police, because of contact with tramps, or 
whenever a boy is held as a complaining witness 
against a tramp, he should always be reported to the 
Juvenile Court. It is the responsibility of the court 
to put the boy in touch with some proper individual 
or agency, so that he will be adequately supervised 
and befriended in the future. 
9. Publicity and public co-operation: the education of the 
public through news items in the daily press and editorial 
comment; public co-operation through tickets of 
admission to the Clearing House providing food and 
lodging in the Municipal Lodging House constantly to 



be distributed through societies, institutions, hotels, 
business offices, churches, clubs, housewives, and other 

II. A Program for Future Action — 

1. That a bond issue be submitted for approval to the voters 
of the city of Chicago providing for the erection of ade- 
quate buildings for a Municipal Clearing House, Munici- 
pal Lodging House, and Municipal Laundry and Bath 

2. That an Industrial Institute be established by the state 
of Illinois in Chicago for the vocational training of the 
physically handicapped, mentally defective, and indus- 
trially inadequate, who are unemployable, but willing 
to work. 

3. That a State Farm Colony for Industrial Rehabilitation be 
established by the state of Illinois for the compulsory 
detention and re-education of unemployables, such as 
beggars, vagrants, petty criminals, who are unwilling 
to receive industrial training. 

4. That a Department of Industrial Training of the House of 
Correction be opened, pending the establishment of the 
State Farm Colony for Industrial Rehabilitation, for 
the commitment and re-education of unemployables, 
such as beggars, vagrants, and petty criminals. 




115. Summary of a Study of Four Hundred Tramps^ Nels Ander- 
son, summer, 1921. 

124. An evening spent on the benches in Grant Park; description 
of men and their talk. 

135. A Study of Eight Cases of Homeless Men in Lodging Houses^ 
R. N. Wood, December, 1922. 

145. An unpubHshed paper on the hobo, "Along the Main Stem 
with Red," Harry M. Beardsley, March 20, 1917. 

146. Chicago's Hobo Area^ Sherman O. Cooper, December, 1917. 
157. Chicago's Hobo District^ Melville J. Herskovits, December, 

159. Comparative statistics for the three wards in which Hobo- 
hemia is located, 1910-20. 


I. "A Day in the Jungles," A. W. Dragstedt, a hobo who 
knows the jungles. 
76. "Job Hunting via Box-Car in the Northwest," Hobo News^ 
Bill Quirke, September, 1921. 


2-3. Recital of an evening spent by Nels Anderson in a flop- 
house, April, 1922. 
70. Statistics: Bridewell population, lodging-house patrons, 

registered voters. 
79. Report of Visit to Ten Gambling Houses in Hobohemia^ Nels 

Anderson, January i, 1923. 
105. Casual worker, ex-soldier, twenty-eight, few days in town, 

lost money in gambling-house. 
151. A Dozen Hotels in the Loopy George F. David, August, 1922. 


4. Jewish hobo, parasitic philosophy, middle-aged, begs from 
Jewish agencies in all cities. 



5. Transient dreamer, twenty-seven, known to many agencies 
in different cities. 

6. Boy in teens, Jewish, moves with ease from agency to 
agency, good solicitor. 

7. City bum, twenty-four, petty robber, works occasionally, 
jail experience. 

8. "Fat," a panhandler with a self-justifying philosophy, 
works on favorable jobs. 

9. Englishman, forty-one, paralyzed arm, alcoholic, mendi- 
cant, was a bricklayer. 

89. Faker, Bulgarian, forty-five, plays deaf and dumb, "works" 

90. Home-guard bum, sixty-nine, works at odd jobs, often 
mendicant, drinks some. 

95. Ex-soldier, funds about gone, going East for work, clean, 
sober, "working" charities. 

97. Boy tramp, eighteen, left home to avoid school, wants to 
be engineer, works. 

98. Two young men temporarily without money and work, 
adjusted in a few days. 

102. City bum, thirty-five, talkative, lazy and unkempt, mendi- 
cant much of time. 

103. Away from family for work, gets money from wife, loafs, 
later returns home. 

104. Jewish tramp, sells papers, tin worker, served time in jail 
for wife desertion. 

111. Loafs, fat, unattractive, works some, not welcome home; 
his family send him money. 

112. Well-to-do sister ashamed of him, sends him money; he 
calls it "borrowing." 

113. Beggar with a philosophy, condemns peddlers who beg part 
of time, works occasionally. 

123. Spanish war and world-war veteran, forty-six, compensa- 
tion, tries to go to school. 

131. Description of life with the "slum proletariat" by one of 

152. Mendicancy in Chicago^ Melvin L. Olsen, December, 1919. 
155. Case Studies of Beggars in Chicago^ Joseph Arnsdorff, 

December 16, 1919. 
161. Statement from the secretary of the Mid-City Commercial 

Association on the hobo problem. 



10. Pioneer hobo and tramp, "played all the games," fifty-six, 
blames self for misspent life. 

11. Belgian, fifty-eight, coal miner, lumber jack, Chicago in 
winter, single, seldom penniless. 

12. Pioneer hobo, fifty-one, perhaps dying, miner's "con," 
away from home (Ohio) thirty years. 

13. Migratory worker, single, fifty-six, ever restless, mines, 
sea, harvest, sheep shearer. 

14. Anemic man, lung trouble, textile worker, light work only, 
hopes open air will help. 

15. Beggar, peddler, one leg, industrial accident, justifies 
begging and drink. 

16. Migrant, would settle down, drinks, loses jobs, single, 
getting old, health failing. 

17. "Dope" user, weak, anemic, poorly clad, dirty, beat way 
from Boston. 

18. Old man, seventy-eight, poor-farm and hospital experience, 
mendicant, lives on fifty or sixty cents a day. 

19. Restless young man, twenty-four, no permanent desires, 
carpenter, capable, sober, congenial. 

10. Restless young worker, easily bored by the monotony of a 

26. Irish, ex-soldier, ex-sailor, twenty-seven, sings, wants to 
study music, ex-secretary of "Hobo College." 

27. Feeble-minded, left home in war time, odd jobs, in town 
often, often in missions. 

28. Pessimistic, imaginative, unstable, about forty-five, fair 

29. Periodical drinker, quarrelsome when drunk, otherwise 
good worker. 

30. College man, twenty-seven, ex-salesman, left wife, homo- 
sexual experience, avoids work. 

31. Chronic drinker, stockyards worker, seldom migrates, 
many arrests, away from wife twelve years. 

32. Boy tramp, sixteen, on way to Texas, from Ohio, parents 
dead, only brother a soldier. 

33. Left home when jilted by girl, too sensitive to return, very 

34. Returned home after jail experience, humiliated, left home, 
away for several years. 


35. Ex-soldier, as small-town boy left home in crisis, stayed 
away to make bluff good, twenty-two. 

36. Boy left home in fear of punishment from father, returns 

37. Migrant because of trouble over woman, about thirty, 
dare not return, radical. 

38. Became migratory to avoid paying alimony, dare not 
return, about forty. 

39. Boy tramp, nineteen, egotist, traveled much, works Httle, 
gambles, jail record. 

40. Oldest boy becomes runaway, twenty, other boys in family 
follow, dislikes father. 


41. Scotchman, thirty-two, single, ex-soldier, sailor, nurse in 
winters, casual in summer. 

42. Deck hand summers, migrant to South in winter, single, 
generally sober. 

43. Carpenter, casual, often discharged, would settle but losing 
efficiency by drink. 

44. Old man, fifty-eight, plasterer, fair worker but casual, has 
ceased migrating, sober. 

45. One-time harvest hand, seldom leaves Chicago, peddles 
trinkets, gambles. 

46. Romantic tramp, revels in wandering, carries tiny camera, 
seeks notice, does not work. 

86. Recital of experiences of boy tramp, now a doctor in Chicago. 

91. Russian, able-bodied hobo, about thirty-five, clean, sober, 
works in and near Chicago. 

92. Boy, eighteen, on way home (Indiana) from winter in 
West, plans to leave tramp life. 

100. Congenial, irresponsible man of twenty-five, sober, clean, 

very transient, works as porter. 
109. Runaway boy from Hammond, Indiana, sixteen, in Hobo- 

hemia looking for work, very worldly wise. 


47. City bum, twenty-three, in missions when broke, works as 
teamster, "got" religion once. 

48. Wife deserter, drinks, loiters on "stem," odd jobs, formerly 
pig killer. 


49. Ex-pugilist, single, forty-five, now mission "stiff," works 
on docks in summer, alcoholic. 

50. Health ruined by drink, thirty-two, light jobs, baker, 
farms in summer, Chicago much of time. 

72. Crippled in industrial accident, sixty-two, family grown, 
would care for him, drinks. 

78. Classification of types of homeless men submitted by Mr. 

Wirth of Jewish charities. 
127. Classification of tramps, hobos, and other types of home- 
less men by Dr. Ben L. Reitman. 


73. Pioneer type, fifty, seldom comes East, miner, prospector, 
lumber jack. 

77. Man forced to be idle by hard times, learned to get along, 

later refused work. 
83. Old man, fifty, single, winters in Chicago, farm jobs in 

summer, drinks some. 

93. Laborer, migrant, forty-four, becoming radical on account 
of work shortage, had some money. 

94. Ex-soldier, twenty-seven, without funds but hopeful, 
hustling worker. 

96. Boy tramp, twenty, reformatory record, traveled much in 
three years. 

114. Brought cattle from Wyoming to Chicago, lost all with 
women and drink, still happy. 
•,134. Study of Employment Agencies and Labor Placement Prob- 
lems^ E. H. Koster, August, 1922. 

158. The Unemployed and the Unemployable in Chicago^ Rupert 
R. Lewis, December, 1917. 

160. Statistics of the Chicago Free Employment offices for the 
year ending September 30, 1922. 


106. Ex-soldier, released from army hospital, gets compensation, 
drinks much. 

107. Italian bricklayer, rheumatism, gets aid from union, 
family in Italy, sons in war. 

108. Mental case, talks to self, attracts much attention on 
street, loud and vulgar. 


117. Teamster, thirty-six, raised in slum, unemployable with 
locomotor ataxia, peddles pencils. 

121. Chicago boy, does not go home, needs medical attention 
for feet and eyes, gambles. 

122. Boy tramp, great wanderer, homosexual, intelligent, two 
years on road. 

139. Mortality statistics for Hobohemia for 1922, non-resident 

147. Communication of Dr. Herman N. Bundesen, commis- 
sioner of public health, concerning the health and medical 
care of the homeless man in Chicago. 


51. Middle-aged woman, character on West Madison Street, 
feeds cats, scolds everyone. 

52. Street faker, aspires to be actor, jail experience, free-union 

53. Boy tramp, going West, travels without difficulty but is 
often accosted by perverts. 

54. Homosexual case, boy involved, man died in jail while 
awaiting trial. 

55. Bum who works on docks and boats, involved in boy case. 
Bridewell for term. 

81. Four boys in Grant Park, each with jail and tramp experi- 

82. Case of boy in teens, tramp, "flirting" with men in Grant 

87. Cases of Venereal Disease Due to Homosexual Injection^ Dr. 
Ben L. Reitman. 

110. Boy tramp, nineteen, exploited by perverts, decidedly 
feeble-minded, on way home (Indiana). 

120. Young man, twenty-two, well dressed, homosexual prosti- 
tute, loafs in Grant Park. 

125. Observations upon the unnatural attachments of some 
homeless men and boys. 

141. Wife deserter, left home to enable her to divorce him. 

142. Statistics showing marital condition of homeless men. 
153. The Sexual Life of Habitual Wanderers^ J. L. Handelman, 

August 22, 1 91 9. 



56. Case of a transient voter showing difficulty hobo has of 

57. Hobo's affair with police in Kansas, hobo bitter against 

58. University of Iowa student and police, fair observer, has 
been hobo, letter to writer. 

59. Recital of hobo and private police in Ohio, narrator has 
settled in Chicago. 

80. Report of visit to police court, hobos tried at rate of one 

a minute, August 28, 1922. 
85. Report of Two Weeks' Commitment to the Cook County Jail, 

Nels Anderson, May, 1922. 

149. Case of police persecution. 

162. Newspaper clippings on the death of Martin Talbert in a 
Florida convict camp. 


22. Marxian socialist, soap-boxer, dogmatic and undiplomatic, 
would educate "slaves." 

25. Dreamer, poet, migrant, critic, very changeable, good 

family, single, ex-soldier. 
75. Pamphlet on Mike Walsh published by himself, states his 

policies and achievements. 
126. Character sketch of J. E. How, "Millionaire Hobo," also 

correspondence with Nels Anderson. 


23. Tries to write saleable songs and novels, sober but gambles, 

116. Leader in hobo organization, writes for Hobo News, carries 
I.W.W. card. 

119. Hobo philosopher, carrys bundle, sells pamphlets about 
self, sleeps in parks. 

129. Thirty-one copies of the Hobo News containing various 
types of hobo literature. 

150. Manuscript on "What the Hobo Reads," Daniel Horsley. 


130. Collection of hobo songs and poems made by Nels Anderson, 
forty-one selections. 




21. Soap-boxer, scientific bent, takes self and message seriously, 

calls it "education." 
24. Single-tax advocate, about fifty, living away from family, 

sells Ford's Weekly. 

60. Notes on an afternoon's series of talks on the soap box on 
Madison Street. 

138. Debate, "Hobo College" v. students from the University 
of Chicago, "Kansas Industrial Courts," April 12, 1923. 

140. Study of ''Hobo College" in Chicago y Charles W. Allen 
(teacher at college), 1923. 


61. Co-operative movements among hobos, experiences of 
John X. Kelly, now in Chicago. 

74. Financial statement of the I.W.W., May and June, 1922. 
84. Conversation with an I.W.W. who was once a steady 
migratory worker, old soldier. 


62. "Visit to Bible Rescue Mission," Nels Anderson's experi- 
ence, spring, 1922. 

63. Salvation Army Revival, Sherman O. Cooper. 

64. Case of "X" at the Bible Rescue Mission, bears public 
testimony to former badness. 

65. Ex-bum and wife deserter, graduate foreign university, 
steady man now. 

66. Mission worker, "saved" twenty years ago, was alcoholic 
and a failure, in business now. 

67. German, Madison Street bum, came into mission to get 
warm, got religion, left old life. 

68. Ex-drunkard, often thrown out of mission, finally got 
converted and is a new man. 

69. Young man, mission "stiff," easily converted, became a 
"backslider" next day. 

71. Wife deserter, mission hanger-on, clean, erect, active but 
avoids work. 

99. Letter by Bill Quirke to Hobo News on missions in Los 

Angeles. He assails missions. 
118. Ex-soldier in Legion headquarters, trying to get job on 
strength of army experience. 



143. Study of Missions and Mission Characters, L. G. Brown, 

156. A Study of Missions, H. D. Wolf, August, 1922. 


128. Unpublished materials by Nels Anderson, covering his 
study of 400 tramps, 230 typewritten pages. 

144. Study of no Runaway Boys in Chicago Detention Home, 
F. C. Frey and B. W. Bridgman, 1922. 

148. "Outline of Program for the Prevention and Treatment of 
Vagrancy," prepared by the Committee on Relief of the 
Chicago Council of Social Agencies, and submitted to the 
Executive Committee of the Council, June 13, 191 8. 

154. Responses to requests for information on the homeless 
man problem from social agencies in the larger American 




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Marie, A. A., and Meunier, R., Les Vagabonds. Paris: Giard 

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^The first chapter describes the homeless-man areas of 1893. 



"A No. I," loo 

Adler, Herman M., 73 

Agencies, conflicting policies of, 15 

Alcoholism, 66, 67, 134-35 

American Express, 166 

American Legion, 260 

Ashleigh, Charles, 205 

Association of hobo with women, 138 

Associations: I.B.W.A., 230, 235-40; 

I.W.W., 230-35; J.P.A.,ix; M.W.U., 


Atkins, Brigadier J. E., 171, 180-81 
Attitude of perverts, 148 

Ball, Charles B,, 260 
Ballot, hobo regard for, 153 
Barber colleges, 37-38 
Barrel-house, 27 
Begging, 47, 49, 50 
Bills of fare on "stem," 34 
Bloch, Iwan, 144 
Boarding companies, 130-31 
Bookstore, 38 
Borrowing, 49 

Boy tramp, and perversion, 145; and 

wanderlust, 83 
Boyd, Charles J., 120 
Boys and tramp life, 85 
Bread lines, 258 
Brennan, Pat, 208 
"Bughouse Square," 9-10 
Bum, the, 98 

"Carrying the banner," 53 
Catholic charities, 259 
Christian Industrial League, 27-28, 

Chicago, a winter shelter, 12-13 
Chicago labor exchange, 12, 110 
Chicago plan for homeless men, 271-79 
Chicago Urban League, 259 
Civil authorities and tramp, 163-64 
Clearing house for homeless men, 122, 

Clothing stores, 3 5-36 
"Coffee an'" level, 40 
Cooking in jungles, 22-23 
College," "Hobo, 172, 173, 174, 175, 
177, 227, 237 

Construction work, 107 

Court experience of hobo, 165-66 

Criminal, hobos not, 164-65 

Crises in life of person, 77-79 

Crop moving, 107 

Cubicles or "cages," 30 

Dawes, General C. G., 28 
Day in the jungles, 21-25 
Dragstedt, A. W., 25 n., 171, 177-78, 

Drug addicts, 67-68, not hobos, 69 

Educating the proletariat, 219 

Egocentricity, 74-76 

Ellis, Havelock, 144 

Employment agencies, comparison of, 

1 15-17; private, 111-12; public, 

1 14-16 

Employment service, need of, 1 22 
Evangelists and soap-boxers, 217 

Faking, street, 43 
Farmer-Labor Party, 1 52 
Flops, co-operative, 238-39 
Flynt, Josiah, 94, 146 
Fortune-tellers, 39 
"Free-lance" speakers, 216, 218 
Free-union marriages, 141-42 

"Getting by," a game, 57, meaning 

of, 40-41 
Giovannitti, Arturo, 201 
Grafts, old and new, 44 
Grant Park, in summer, 1 1 
Greenstein, "Mother" 139, 171, 183- 


Handicapped men, 125-28 
Harvey-Dammarell hotels, 28-29 
Harvey-McGuire hotels, 28 
"Hat trick," the, 45-46 
Hazards of casual work, 1 29 
Health Department, 131, 132, 133 
Healy, William, 70 
Hill, Joe, 208, 209 

Hobo, definition of, 87-89; and drink, 
135; and exposure, 136; health in 





town, 131-33; hostility to in small 
town, 26; names for, 93; nativity 
of, 150-51; origin of, 88; pioneer, 
and frontiersman, 92; poor beggar, 
49; and religion, 262; status of, 
167; voting, 151-52; what he 
reads, 187-89; worker, 91 

Hobohemia, defined, 3 

"Hogan's Flop," 31-33 

Home, why men leave, 61 fF. 

Home guard, 96-97; types of, 100-101 

Homeless men, and the law, 154; 
mostly unmarried, 137 

Horsley, Dan, 171, 175-77 

Housing problem, 39 

How, James Eads, 88, 172, 174, 175, 

I.B.W.A., 230, 235-40; Holding Com- 
mittee, 237-38; origin of, 235-36; 
program of, 236-37 

Industrial attractions, 62; fishing, 
107; ice-harvesting, 108; lumber- 
ing, 108; sheep-shearing, 107-8 

Industrially inadequate, 65 

Industry, changes in, 62-63; hazards 
of, 65-66 

I.W.W., 230-35; literature list, 187- 
88; methods and appeal, 232-34; 
origin of, 230; periodicals, 191 ; 
program, 231; treatment in Chi- 
cago, 235; treatment by Ku Klux 
Klan, 191 

"Jack rolling," 5, 51-52 

Jewish Social Service Bureau, 259 

Job hunting, 109 

Jobs sold, estimate of, 1 1 1 

Jockers, 103 

Johnson, Glenn R., 72 

Jungle, buzzard, 103; a day in, 21- 
25; democracy in, 19; laws of, 
20-21; location and types of, 16- 
17; on lake front, 10; trial in, 
24-25; womanless, 18 

Juvenile Protective Association, ix 

Kelihor, T. T., 160 
Kelly, John X., 171, 173-74, 242, 

Kemp, Harry, 196, 199 
"Killing time," 215-16 
Klein, Nicholas, 88 
Knibbs, H. H., 198 

Lady barbers, 38 

Langsman, Charles W., 171, 178-79 
Laubach, F. C, 126 
Leadership in Hobohemia, 184 
Lescohier, Don D., 119 
Library privileges, 185 
Life, loss of, 161-62 
Light work, 129 
Living, cheap in city, 13 
Lodging-houses, municipal, 127, 134, 

260-61; quasi-charitable, 27-28; 

sanitary conditions of, 131-32; 

types of, 27 

Medical attention, free, 13; on the 
job, 130 

MeUs, Lewis, 206 

Mental tests, 71-73 

Migratory Workers' Union, 230; 240- 
41; aims and objects, 24I, 247 

Miller, H. A., 82 n. 

Missions, 250-58; converts of, 253- 
54; competition between, 250; 
migratory national, 252; perma- 
nent local, 251; soUciting funds, 
252; "wild cat," 253 

Mission stiffs, 98, 103 

Mobihty, complicates problem, 15; 
effects of, 120, 248-49; of handi- 
capped men, 128 

"Mooching," 50 

Movies and burlesque, 37 

Mullenbach, James, 260 

Municipal Lodging House (Chicago), 
260-61; (New York), 127, 134 

Mushfaker, 99 

Myers, Dr. Johnston, 171, 181-83 

National program, 270 
Negro hobos, 8 

New York Central Railroad, 166 
News, Hobo, 177, 185, 186, 187, 192 

Odd jobs, in city, 41 
Old men, 69 



"One Big Union," 231 
Open forums, 226-28 
Organizations among hobos, 230; 
failure of, 247-49 

"Panhandling," 50 

Park, R. E., 82 n. 

Partnerships among hobos, 147 

Passing the hat, 223 

Patriotism, 151 

Pawn shops, 36 

Peddling on street, 42 

Personal degradation, 57, 65 

Personality, defects of, 72-76 

Perversion among tramps, 144-47 

Pintner and Toops, 71, 72 n. 

Poems and ballads, 194-214; "Away 
from Town," 199-200; "Beaten 
Men," 205; Bum," "The, 201-2; 
Bum on the Rods and the Bum on 
the Plush," "The, 202; Dish- 
washer," "The, 20I-2; Gila Mon- 
ster Route," "The, 194-96; 
"Harvest War Song," 208; Hobo 
Knows," "The, 203; Hobo's Last 
Lament," "The, 212; "Men That 
Don't Fit In," 204; "No Matter 
Where You Go," 213-14; "Nothing 
to Do But Go," 198-99; "One 
Day; Some Way," 205.; "Opti- 
mism," 213; "Portland County 
Jail," 21 1 ; Preacher and the Slave," 
"The, 210; Slave Market," "The, 
206-7; Tramp," "The, 209; Tramp 
Confession," "The, 196-98; Wan- 
derer," "The, 206 

Police, encounters with hobos, 156- 
58; methods of, 155, 160, 164; 
private, 155; types of, 154-55 

Poorhouse, aversion of hobo to, 56; 

Population, turnover in Hobohemia, 

Program for future action, 279 
"Proletariat," 176 
Property, destruction of, 161 
Prostitutes, "second raters," 143 
Prostitution, 142-43 
Punk, 99, 103 

Queen, Stuart A., 26 n. 

Racial discrimination, 81 
Radical press, 186 
Raid on jungles, 23-24 
Railroad yards, 8 

Reitman, Ben L., 87, 102, 134 n., 

143, 171, 172-73 
Religion, practical, 182; and love, 

179; and work, 180 
Restaurants and lunchrooms, 33-35; 

sanitary conditions of, 35 
Robins, Raymond, 260 
Rountree, B, Seebohm, 64 n. 

Sabotage, 121 
Saloons, 38-39 

Salvation Army, 27-28, 250, 260 

Scissor Bill, 99 

Seasonal fluctuations, 63 

Seasonal workers, 89-90 

Second-hand clothing, 35-36 

Service, Robert W., 203 

Sex isolation of hobo, 144, 149 

Seymour, James, 200 

Short jobs, 1 18-19 

Sickness and disease, 133 

Soap-boxers, ethics and tactics of, 
222-24; and opinion, 228-29; his 
role on stand, 229; versatility of, 

Social center for hobos, ii; in the 

jungles, 16, 26 
Solenberger, Alice W., 9 n., 71, 87, 


Solidarity y the Industrial^ 190-91 
State farm colony, 277 
Stealing, petty, 51 

Street speaking, 216-20; lectures, 220 

Strike jobs, 120-21 

Summary and findings, 265-79 

Terman, L. M., 71 n. 

Testimonies of converts, 256 

Thornburn, Charles, 205 

Tramp, the, 93-95 

Tramping, a man's game, 137 

Tucker, St. John, 87 

Tugwell, Rexford, 82 

Types, rendezvous of, 5, 7, 9; of 
homeless men, 105; numbers of 
each in Chicago, 105-6; of peddlers, 



Unemployables, 104 
Unemployment, 64-65 
United Charities, 259 

Vagrancy, explanation of, 85-86; in 

small towns, 163 
Van de Water, John, 171, 179-80 
Vaudeville, 37 
Venereal disease, 133-34 

Walsh, Michael C, 171, 174-75, 

Wanderlust, 82-83 

Welfare organizations, 259-60 

Westbrook, Warden Wesley, 165 

White, Henry A., 203 

Winter, "getting by" in, 52-53 

Women and homeless men, 138-42 

Work, a national problem, 121-22 

"Working the folks," 46-47 

Writings of hobos, 188-90 

Younger hobos, 1 40-41